As panel recommends additional $5.5M for arts center in Nashua, officials say $4M endowment nearly met

  • andrew 

Republished from original source: Union Leader, September 29, 2020

The $4 million in private donations and tax credits needed to make Nashua’s new downtown performing arts center a reality has almost been reached, according to officials.

“We are well within striking distance,” said Tim Cummings, the city’s economic development director.

Cummings announced Monday that Mascoma Community Development LLC in Lebanon has provided a “verbal commitment” to the city to award about $2.5 million in New Market Tax Credits to the arts center project if the deal can be closed by the end of the year.

“The New Market Tax Credits are imminently in hand,” Cummings said, explaining Mascoma Community Development is also interested in being the investor of the tax credits.

In addition, representatives with the capital campaign committee announced that about $1,523,000 has already been raised in private donations, and that the public phase of the fundraising initiative will now get underway in an effort to raise even more money.

Combined, the anticipated New Market Tax Credits and the existing private donations already equal the $4 million endowment required by aldermen to keep the project alive.

Despite the fundraising progress, Cummings acknowledged that the cost of the project has increased to about $25 million; aldermen previously approved a $15.5 million bond for the arts center at the former Alec’s shoe store at 201 Main St.

The previous bond, in addition to the $4 million endowment consisting of New Market Tax Credits and private donations, equals about $19.5 million, therefore leaving a gap of about $5.5 million.

On Monday, the aldermanic budget review committee voted to recommend an additional $5.5 million bond for the performing arts center, as well as an adjoining $2.5 million bond to build a lower level public parking complex as part of the abutting School Streets Flats apartment project.

“We have spent three years coming to this moment and now it is time to pull the trigger and do this,” Alderman Ben Clemons said of the extra $5.5 million for the theater. “This day has come and here we are. Now it is time to get it done.”

The newly proposed $8 million bond to cover additional funds for the arts center and the proposed public parking complex is expected to be paid through a Tax Increment Financing District, pending support from the full Board of Aldermen.

“We build it for the future, and for that future, I think, we will get a lot of potential tax revenue and enhance our downtown,” said Alderman Mike O’Brien.

Numerous residents on Monday spoke in favor of the additional funding for the arts center, saying the project will bring more energy to Main Street, create jobs, improve the economy and help attract and retain residents.

“As much as I am in favor of a performing arts center, I struggle with the idea of (whether) it is fair. For those of us who think the performing arts center would be a great thing, is it fair for us to ask the rest of the citizens in Nashua — you know not everybody is in favor of this and a lot of them will never step foot in this place — is it fair to ask them to use their tax money to pay for a very, very expensive project in comparison to other projects in the state?” asked Alderman Ernest Jette.

Jette mentioned other theaters in New Hampshire, specifically the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, saying it was completed for a lot less money and funded through a nonprofit corporation.

“I am still not clear on the economics of this plan and whether they work out in our favor with the bonding,” echoed Alderman David Tencza.

Laura Colquhoun, a Nashua resident, maintained that the performing arts center “is going down as the biggest pink elephant of Nashua,” contending many taxpayers do not support the project.