Unanimous support for performing arts center

Nashua Planning Board gives nod to $15 million downtown project

Staff file photo by Hannah LaClaire The former Alec's Shoes is the site for the proposed performing arts center.

NASHUA – The Planning Board gave unanimous support to the $15 million performing arts center proposal Thursday night, despite concerns from at least one board member.

Board member Gerry Reppucci expressed skepticism about details in the proposal, and said that while he thinks everyone involved did their “due diligence,” he remains concerned.

“I think the city is trying to do the right thing,” Reppucci said.

Reppucci is concerned that the private $4 million endowment part of the funding plan will not materialize, leaving taxpayers to pick up that portion of the funding. Reppucci put those concerns aside and voted wilt all the other board members in support of the plan.

Tim Cummings, Nashua’s economic development director, was on hand to answer questions about the plan to turn the former Alec’s Shoe Store at 201 Main St. into a 500 to 700 seat theater and event center. Cummings said conservative estimates indicate Nashua will generate around $1 million in economic activity for the downtown once the performing arts center is up and running.

Alderman Brian McCarthy, who has been part of the planning on the performing arts center for years, said the Main Street plan is the best option for the city as it seeks to reinvigorate the downtown economy and attract young professionals to the city.

“It’s a very good project that will be of long-term, lasting benefit,” McCarthy said. “We have to find a different way to power our downtown.”

The city will buy and renovate the property, but under the plan developed for the center, the operations will be handled by an independent nonprofit.

Part of the funding for the center comes from a yet-to-be established $4 million endowment. Cummings said work on the endowment has not started, as the Board of Aldermen have not given final approval to the $15 million purchase and renovation bond. The bond resolution allows two years for the endowment to be created and funded.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.