Nashua art community hopeful that financing will be secured for proposed facility

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
May 03. 2017 11:06PM
Aldermen are considering a proposal to issue a $15.5 million bond to convert the old Alec's Shoes building into a performing arts venue. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

NASHUA — Members of the Nashua arts community agree that a proposed performing arts and events center will be money well spent, and are optimistic that private donors will contribute to the cause.

Still, they acknowledge that the hefty price tag — a proposed $15.5 million to convert the old Alec’s Shoes building into a two-story arts facility — will not be an easy task.

The proposal being considered by aldermen recommends a bond of $15.5 million to construct the theater, with a recommended $4 million endowment gathered by private entities to help with its daily operations.

“A goal worth accomplishing can be accomplished — it is not about the money,” said Kathy Hersh of City Arts Nashua. She remains positive that private donors will be secured to help with the financial challenges of the proposed project.

“I think the opportunity is ripe. We have been talking about this for a very long time, and the arts have matured in Nashua in the past five years. I think that we are ready as a community and recognize the importance of arts to our community, economy and lives,” Hersh said on Wednesday, the day after city officials were presented with the plan by Bruner/Cott Architects and Webb Management Services, Inc. of New York.

Hersh said City Arts Nashua would be supportive of helping to raise funds for the project.

The proposed 500 tiered-seat theater would also be large enough for 1,000 standing patrons, and include a first-level lobby, restaurant and retail area, according to preliminary plans. The upper level of the arts center would include a performance space of about 7,142-square-feet, a lobby, concession area, catering space, restrooms, two dressing areas and storage.

John Koutsos of Alec’s Shoes still owns the former shoe store at 201 Main St. He did not return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday.

Bonnie Guercio, a member of the Picker Collaborative Artists, said she is hopeful that there will be enough financial support in the city to collect the $4 million suggested endowment, and that aldermen will approve the $15.5 million bond for the project.

“I think that more and more people are beginning to see that those dollars are very well spent because they do come back to the community. I think that is becoming a more common thought,” said Guercio, an artist who specializes in digital and mixed media collages. “It will be money well spent.”

According to Guercio, the Gate City art community is excited about the potential for Nashua to become a destination of the arts — and focused directly in the heart of Although several aldermen support the concept, some said they would need to clearly understand how much financial support they could expect from private entities before pursuing the project further. Others said there are so many priorities in the city that must be considered before advancing the arts center idea.

Tracy Hatch, president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said her organization would be willing to speak with prospective donors and help advocate for the new arts center in an effort to make it a reality.

“It will be a lot of work, but the $4 million (endowment) is not an insurmountable amount to overcome. The community has the will,” said Hatch.

While it is understandable that city officials would have concerns about the management of its debt services, she believes the project is still feasible.

“It won’t be easy fundraising, it never is. Funding is always a really strong issue,” said Judith Carlson of the Nashua Arts Commission.

Still, she is encouraged that aldermen are willing to evaluate the financing aspect of the proposal and study the concept more.

“I know we still have a long way to go,” added Carlson.

khoughton@newstote.com


EntertainmentNashuaLocal and County Government

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