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Jaffrey

1920s theater to come down

Park Theatre to be completely rebuilt

  • Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Caroline Hollister, president of the Board of Directors of the Park Theatre, presented the theater's plans for demolition and construction at a public hearing with the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday night.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

JAFFREY — Those invested in the Park Theatre’s restoration came one step closer Tuesday night to realizing their vision of bringing back a theater to Main Street. Seven years ago, the Park Theatre’s Board of Trustees purchased the old theater, and now they are just a couple of months shy of raising the last $100,000 they need to begin demolition and preparation work for new construction. The original plan to save the historic building at 19 Main St. is no longer an option, according to Caroline Hollister, president of the theater’s Board of Trustees.

If the Park Theatre can raise $100,000 by July 30 through private donations, the state’s Community Development Finance Authority Tax Credit Program has pledged to match those funds with $200,000 in tax credits the theater has already raised with the help of local businesses. The theater has applied for a second round of tax credits that, if granted this summer, would bring the theater’s total tax credit award to $900,000, according Hollister.

The total cost of construction is expected to reach approximately $1.9 million, Hollister said by phone Wednesday. As of March, trustees had raised $450,000 in private donations in addition to the tax credit funds, and fundraising efforts are ongoing.

The Planning Board unanimously approved the Park Theatre’s site plan for demolition and construction following Tuesday night’s public hearing, one that began in November 2012. For the past seven months, the theater’s trustees have been meeting with area builders and architects, town officials and abutters to revise the site plan and develop a more comprehensive timetable for the theater’s construction, in addition to continuing fundraising efforts.

Initially, trustees had expressed their intention to demolish parts of and refurbish the Park Theatre, but Park Theatre representative Jeff Clark-Kevan said Tuesday that the theater will instead be reconstructed from the ground up after a full demolition. Demolition is slated for October and September, and construction is expected to start in spring 2014, he said.

Hollister explained by phone Wednesday that her hope was to leave the existing auditorium standing, but doing so would have raised the total cost of the project by $250,000 to $500,000. A partially standing structure would have made it impossible for construction equipment to be stored on site and, therefore, would have required additional employees to truck supplies in as needed from an off-site location, she said. And, the contractor’s precision would have been increasingly more important, which would have meant more time and labor costs, she said.

“In some ways it’s a heartbreak for a lot of people,” she said about losing the building where countless memories had been made during the more than 50 years the theater was in operation. After outliving its vaudeville days and the silent film era of the early 20th century, the theater was finally closed in the 1970s and remained shut to the public for the next 30 years, that is until some Jaffrey residents forged a plan to bring it back to life. Now, the old theater is slated to be razed to make way for a new one, very much inspired by the Art Deco period of the Jaffrey theater’s early days. But before demolition does occur, Hollister said at Tuesday’s meeting, memorabilia from Romulo Vanni’s home, which sits atop the theater, the 288 panel mural of Monadnock, a collaborative effort initiated by artist Deb Pero, and other items of historical and personal significance will be saved from the old building and later displayed in the new theater. Vanni was an Italian immigrant who raised his house to sit atop his dry goods store in the 1920s and then built a movie theater out of his adjoining barn.

“We want to make it an Art Deco building, the way Romulo intended,” Hollister said of the restoration. She said she wants the Monadnock region’s residents to visit the theater and feel as though they have been transported back to a time when bold colors and geometric shapes were popular architectural design tools.

In addition to a revised demolition plan, Clark-Kevan told the Planning Board Tuesday night that the theater’s trustees have deferred plans to tear down the building they purchased at 6 River St. in 2011. It was hoped that the building at 6 River St. could be connected to the theater to allow for an alternative entrance. The building on River Street was home to Stan Wilson’s barbershop for more than 50 years.

When the theater developed its strategic plan for restoration in 2007, Hollister told the Ledger-Transcript in 2011 that the building’s one entrance from Main Street and its “landlocked” location was a concern. In addition to a second entrance on River Street, Hollister said touring companies or visiting symphony orchestras would be able to off-load musical instruments and costumes at that location without causing disruption to Main Street traffic.

Tuesday, Hollister said the second entrance is a long-term dream of the theater, but the trustees realize both the expansion and restoration projects cannot occur simultaneously because of the cost and impact to downtown.

A handful of Jaffrey residents, including abutters to the Park Theatre and members of the theater’s Board of Trustees, attended Tuesday’s public hearing and offered their support for the long-awaited project.

Abutter Cathy Furze, who owns Country Bridals and Formal Wear at 17 Main St., was joined by her husband, Rick Furze. She told the board that a newly constructed theater is important and that the current building poses a safety hazard because it is not structurally sound.

Furze also inquired about the demolition process and asked if her property would be protected, should contractors make a mistake during construction. Clark-Kevan responded by saying that Hutter Construction of New Ipswich, the company that will perform the work, has insurance and that the theater will be taking out a bond for $15,000 in case of a failure to the wall that’s shared by the theater and Country Bridals. The cost of the bond, however, could change depending on what’s found during demolition, Clark-Kevan said.

Susan Shaw-Sarles, a theater trustee and principal of Jaffrey Grade School, said she’s seen firsthand the positive influence theater can have on a child; she said she’s excited about the access area schoolchildren will have to live performances. “I think the theater will transform our downtown,” she said.

During Planning Board deliberations following the public hearing, the Select Board’ representative, Selectman Don MacIsaac, expressed concern about the timing of the project and whether or not the theater would be able to complete construction in a year’s time as indicted in the site plan. “I don’t want a project that’s laid open, because it will paralyze downtown,” he said.

The Park Theatre property sits near the corner of state highway Route 202, Main Street and Route 137. Concern about how construction could impact traffic downtown has surfaced at multiple public hearings about the theater’s renovations since November 2012.

But Hollister assured the board that after demolition of the existing theater, contractors would secure the site until the theater has all of the necessary funds in place for construction. “It will not be left half-built,” she said.

The board gave the theater 60 days to demolish the building after obtaining a demolition permit, and an additional 60 days following demolition to secure the site.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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