Park Theatre renovation plan sparks parking concerns downtown

If built, the Park Theatre in downtown Jaffrey could bring an estimated 290 events each year to the downtown area.

(Staff photo by Nick B. Reid)

If built, the Park Theatre in downtown Jaffrey could bring an estimated 290 events each year to the downtown area. (Staff photo by Nick B. Reid) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

JAFFREY — A plan to demolish parts of and refurbish the Park Theatre at 19 Main St. has town officials and abutters questioning how the town will accommodate an increased demand for parking spaces when options are already limited.

At full capacity, the renovated Park Theatre is expected to seat 324 guests, who combined with theater volunteers, could require approximately 100 parking spaces during an event, according to the Park Theatre’s Board of Trustees. The board estimates that about 290 events could be held at the theater annually.

At a public hearing before the Jaffrey Planning Board on Tuesday, Park Theatre representative Jeff Clark-Kevan said there are 251 existing on-street and public parking spaces in downtown Jaffrey, as well as more than 600 private parking spaces. While the Park Theatre’s Board of Trustees plan to demolish Stan Wilson’s former barber shop at 6 River St., which the board purchased in August 2011, and ultimately use that space for additional parking, Clark-Kevan said the lot will only accommodate nine cars.

The theater, which has been dark for more than 30 years, was the town’s go-to location for movies and local productions for five decades, and those invested in its restoration hope to one day soon return it to its former glory.

But before that can be done, town officials said Tuesday night that they are seeking additional information from the Park Theatre about its timeline for construction, a more detailed architectural rendering of the project and a comprehensive mitigation plan, including how the theater will dispose of hazardous asbestos and lead paint found on site.

Demolition work and reconstruction of the Park Theater could take at least 18 months, Clark-Kevan said. But due to the limitations in space surrounding the site for construction equipment and materials to be housed, he added, 18 months was probably a conservative estimate.

“During construction there will be a significant impact,” Clark-Kevan said, referring to the traffic flow downtown. “We may need a policeman or flagman depending on what the [N.H. Department of Transportation] requires.”

The Park Theatre property sits near the corner of state highway Route 202, or River Street, and Route 124, or Main Street, as well as Route 137, or North Street.

Because the sidewalk in front of the theater is a right-of-way, Clark-Kevan said pedestrians may have to be redirected to walk down a temporary sidewalk that could overtake a couple of current parking spaces in front of the theater’s lobby.

In addition to concern about traffic flow and parking access, town officials and abutters also questioned Clark-Kevan about the structural integrity of the theater and how it would withstand major reconstruction.

Abutter Cathy Furze, who owns Country Bridals and Formal Wear at 17 Main St., and her husband, Rick Furze, attended Tuesday’s meeting represented by their attorney, Gary Sheldon of Keene. Sheldon spoke on behalf of the couple, expressing concern about how any damage to the theater’s adjacent walls could be detrimental to nearby business owners and apartment tenants.

The Park Theatre’s construction plans call for a large meeting room, office space and potentially a second movie theater. But as the plans are now, Sheldon said the newly renovated theater would block two apartment windows above the bridal shop that overlook the theater’s roof. In the event of an emergency, tenants can currently escape through those windows, Sheldon said, but the theater’s plans would inhibit the tenants’ ability to do so.

Clark-Kevan said the Board of Trustees will correct that issue and plans to meet with abutters to further discuss concerns they may have about the project before next month’s Planning Board meeting.

The Planning Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11, at which time the town will meet with the Board of Trustees to revisit the theater’s proposal and continue the public hearing.

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

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