$2M building loan OK’d for Park Theatre approved for $2M construction loan

Step by step, the Park Theatre has continued to move closer to the goal of a new building at 19 Main St. in Jaffrey. Now, with a $2 million construction loan approved on Sept. 26 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Community Facilities program, the Park Theatre has sufficient funds to begin construction.

Caroline Hollister, president of the Park Theatre’s Board of Trustees, said in a phone interview Wednesday that the theater applied for the loan in April and had it approved the Thursday before the federal government three-week shutdown. The money, which is packaged as a long-term, low-interest loan out of a federal fund set aside for the purpose of rural development, is solely for the construction of the new theater. “The loan will not be used until we begin construction,” Hollister said.

According to Hollister, the ways a new theater add to the community and the quality of life for residents were more than enough to match the criteria for the loan. As a start, the theater will provide a place for the area schools without performance space to go to, rehearse for, and put on plays. “We hope to show all the town’s school plays,” Hollister said.

The theater should also help the town economically, said Hollister. “Rather than being a burden, we will provide opportunity for business and jobs in downtown Jaffrey.” Hollister said the theater will need to hire help once it is up and running, and that it will also bring in $500,000 of business each year. “It will provide all kinds of sources of revenue for the town,” she said. “One of the strongest aspects of the Park Theatre is that it won’t impact property taxes.” That’s because all the money for the project has been raised from outside sources.

Before the a new building goes up, though, the old one must be torn down. Hollister said Hutter Construction Company, based in New Ipswich, is currently working on acquiring a demolition permit, and expects the old theater to come down in early December. In the meantime, the Park Theatre is working on meeting the town’s requirements for that permit.

“There are a number of things the town will require that we will provide,” Hollister said, including removal of hazardous materials like asbestos and lead paint from the inside of the building. “That will be done, we hope, in about two weeks.” Hollister also mentioned that the N.H. Department of Environmental Services would need notification of the demolition and would have some more requirements for the theater to meet. “Nothing too onerous,” Hollister said.

Funding for the demolition, as well as for the removal of hazardous waste and the preparation of the site for construction, comes in part from the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority. The Finance Authority approved $500,000 in tax credits for the Park Theatre project in 2009, and the Finance Authority just recently told the theater it qualified to begin using some of those funds. The Park Theatre raised $100,000 over the summer to match $200,000 worth of tax credits. “The state has said it will release half of the funds available to us through this award for construction,” said Hollister.

Construction of the new Park Theatre is expected to begin in summer 2014.

Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at ereed@ledgertranscript.com. Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.

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