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Nashua aldermen OK funds to secure building for arts center

Union Leader Correspondent

August 09. 2017 9:12PM
Nashua aldermen have cleared the funding to take the first step toward a possible acquisition of the former Alec's Shoe Store building. (Kimberly Houghton)

NASHUA — Aldermen on Tuesday voted to transfer $36,000 to enter into a future option agreement that could lead to the acquisition of the old Alec’s shoe store — a site recommended to house a new performing arts center.

With little discussion, the board voted 9-4 to transfer the funds and take the first step in what could lead to the building being converted into a downtown theater.

“The proposed option agreement will come before you when the terms are negotiated,” Mayor Jim Donchess told the Board of Aldermen, stressing a purchase-and-sale agreement must still be drafted for the estimated $2 million building.

However, the $36,000 could be used to secure the facility for the next six months while city officials study the feasibility of the arts center, which has an attached price-tag of about $15.5 million.

“I have some great reservations about its applicability and location,” Alderman David Schoneman said of the old shoe store at 201 Main St., adding he is looking forward to a lengthy and fair debate about the project.

Keeping the site as an option, while also providing aldermen with more time to analyze the project, is a good idea, adding Schoneman, who supported the $36,000 transfer.

Those aldermen opposed to the transfer were David Deane, Mark Cookson, Don LeBrun and Dan Moriarty.

In the coming weeks, an aldermanic panel will be studying a proposal to establish a performing arts center steering committee. In addition, the Budget Review Committee and Board of Public Works will be reviewing a separate proposal to issue a $28.5 million bond that would fund a new performing arts center and the first phase of a new public works facility on Burke Street.

“I feel that is apples and oranges,” Barbara Kelson told aldermen this week about the recommended bond for two separate projects.

Kelson argued that many people are enjoying the downtown area without a theater, stressing there are many other priorities that city officials should consider before spending more taxpayer dollars.

She was one of two individuals who urged the board to explore the now vacant Daniel Webster College, a site that she said could possibly be used for either project.

Aldermen were previously presented with a cost estimate of about $48 million to convert a city-owned parcel on Burke Street into a new public works facility; the Board of Education is studying the feasibility of relocating its school administrative offices to the Burke Street property as well.

“I think it is a little bit outrageous,” former Alderman Paula Johnson said of the $48 million proposal, describing the future public works facility as the “Taj Mahal of Nashua.”

A public hearing has been planned for 7 p.m. on Aug. 28 to discuss the proposed $28.5 million bond to fund the performing arts center and the first phase of the public works building.

Entertainment Local and County Government Nashua

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