Center will bring positive returns to city

Each year in New Hampshire, the arts generate $120 million in economic activity, in just four cities in the state. That impact translates to 3,851 full-time equivalent jobs, $81.6 million in household income and $12.4 million in local and state government revenues. (Source: NH Business Review, June 20, 2017). Throughout New Hampshire, communities enjoy the economic and quality of life benefits that come with performing arts centers, like the one proposed for Nashua.

These past few weeks have been an energizing experience, working with a grassroots committee in support of the second question on Tuesday’s ballot. Our committee is made up of Nashua students, teachers, professionals, business owners, visual artists, actors, musicians, fundraisers and philanthropists – many of them parents and grandparents – all who believe in this opportunity for our future. As we talk with neighbors, it has been encouraging to find support for the idea of creating a Performing Arts Center here in Nashua. What we have found is that when people learn about the project and get answers to questions they have, they see this potential for Nashua, too.

I want to touch on the top questions we have heard as we go door-to-door:

What will the center be used for?

The center will host touring acts including musicians, theater productions, comedy shows, as well as film screenings and art exhibitions. It also will serve as an event center, offering rentals for business meetings and conferences, along with wedding receptions, parties and other functions. Also included are catering facilities, along with retail space on the ground floor that generates both rental and tax revenue.

The Currier Museum has proposed a partnership, where they will invest funds from the $1 million endowment recently received toward activating gallery space as part of the project, too, keeping this money to support arts in Nashua IN Nashua! We’ve also been asked, and absolutely – there is enough parking at the adjacent 600-space Elm Street Garage to support all that activity.

How will the Center be managed?

By legislation, a steering committee will be formed to finalize the viable and sustainable business plan and oversee the final planning, construction and operation of the Center. The committee also will oversee fundraising for the endowment and report back to the Board of Aldermen on a regular basis. To run day-to-day operations, the city will contract with a professional management company with in-depth experience at similar performing arts facilities in the region.

What about finances?

The city will fund and sustain the Performing Arts Center through a public-private partnership. The projected cost of both purchasing 201 Main St. and constructing the center is $15.5 million. This will be offset significantly through available grants. The private sector will raise a $4 million endowment, which is required by legislation to be fully secured before any funds are spent on construction. Revenue from the endowment will support operations and fund a long-term maintenance plan.

What about projects coming up that will need to be bonded?

This is not an either/or choice. Each year in recent history, the city of Nashua has paid down roughly $12 million in bonded debt. As old projects are paid off, new projects that require financing are bonded. The Elm Street School is often brought up with this question. Both projects, and other smaller projects planned can all be bonded, while staying under the budget cap and keeping Nashua’s taxes affordable.

Why 201 Main St.?

For Nashua to succeed, we must keep in consideration what the regional market can support. Professionals reviewed the merits of nearly a dozen potential locations in the city and narrowed the field based on the competitive market, local needs and what can be sustained in Nashua. They identified 201 Main St. as the right size and in the right location for success.

The Performing Arts Center will enrich our quality of life, bolster economic vitality in our community, generate tourism, create jobs and grow Nashua’s reputation as one of the best places to live. This investment will serve as an economic engine, increasing the business tax base.

Make a plan to vote. Investing in a Performing Arts Center will bring positive returns to the citizens of Nashua.

As you head to the polls on Tuesday, we hope you will join us in voting YES for Nashua’s Performing Arts Center.

Michael Watt is a committee member at Mine Falls Park – New Hampshire Heritage Trails System.