Performing Arts Center plans develop

Cummings wants $36,000 to secure location

NASHUA – The effort to bring a performing arts center to Main Street is moving forward and Nashua Economic Development director Tim Cummings has a plan to save the city money on the estimated $15.5 million project.

In a letter to the Board of Aldermen, Cummings said he is exploring options to use outside funding, such as grants and tax credits, as well as selling city property to bring down the cost of the project by as much as $3 million.

“There are a number of strategies to reduce the total project costs,” Cummings wrote. “Couple these facts with the city’s ability to accommodate this new debt within its current financial program. It is more than feasibility to pursue this initiative if the city desires to move forward.”

Cummings wants the city to spend $36,000 to secure an option to buy the former Alec Shoe building on Main Street so the initial design work can begin.

Among his proposals to save the city money on the project, Cummings suggested Nashua could refinance the debt on the Clocktower housing development and use the savings for the performing arts center.

Under the plans Cummings brought to aldermen in the spring, the city would buy the former Alec Shoe building on Main Street and pay to renovate it, using a maximum $15.5 million bond. The property has an assessed value of just under $2 million.

The cost to taxpayers for the purchase and renovation of the building is estimated to be about $1 million a year for the bonding. That funding would count against the city’s restrictive spending cap.

Under the plan, the 30,000-square-foot space would provide room for the new theater, support facilities, lobby and event space, as well as some retail space. It would serve as an attraction downtown, used for meetings and events and not just artistic performances.

The ongoing funding for the art center would mostly come from operating revenue, but it still requires heavy participation of private donors. The projected budget for the performing arts center requires 20-25 percent of the more than $1 million annual budget to come from donations, grants and a yet-to-be created endowment of at least $4 million.

Cummings also wants to see a steering committee formed to get the project off the ground and begin work on a fundraising campaign, as well as the initial design work for the space.