Planning began in 2015 under former Mayor Donalee Lozeau and the leadership of Brian McCarthy, then president of the Board of Alderman. The city hired Webb Management, the leading provider of advisory services for the development and operation of cultural facilities. Their initial report was delivered in spring of 2016.
The positive economic impact of the new Center has already begun with Harvey Construction, the general contractor, employing over 250 people during construction.
One business already has moved its office downtown, bringing with it 70 employees, in part because of the Center for the Arts plans. Other projects are in the discussion stage of development.
Using methodology from the 2015 Americans for the Arts study, it is projected that the Nashua Performing Arts Center will generate over $3,500,000 in annual spending and create jobs, based on an audience of 70,000 persons and a budget of $2,044,000 annually. About 75% of these jobs are likely to benefit low-income persons or residents of Low-Income Communities. We anticipate most of these jobs to be in the restaurant and retail industry within the downtown area.
To measure the economic impact of the Center, the Nashua Arts Commission recently completed an off-cycle Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study of the Nashua area with Americans for the Arts to obtain 2019 baseline metrics. The City intends to participate in the future studies (it is conducted across the US every five years) to measure the ongoing economic impact of the Performing Arts Center.
The Center for the Arts Steering Committee met with the architects through the spring of 2019 to gather input for the design of the exterior of the building. The meetings were open to the public with several people attending each – public input was sought and welcomed during all the meetings.
The committee reviewed about a dozen examples of performing arts centers across the US of the same approximate size as a starting point to gather both positive and negative feedback. It was agreed that the building should be contextual – demonstrating that it is a place where people gather for exciting entertainment, and that people on the street should be able to see activity inside – eliciting the desire to come in. The architects went through three iterations before the exterior was approved.
The last iteration included adjustments to make the building fit into its surroundings. The exterior surface is gray in color reflecting the gray limestone of Surf next door, the bank across West Pearl Street, and the granite lintels on the widows in the back section of the center. The paint color on the interior walls showing through the windows mirrors the red brick of the back section of the center. The horizontal elements and the height of the roof are aligned with those of the back section, and the terrace is aligned with Surf.
The Phase I and II feasibility studies conducted by Webb Management Services showed that a venue of 750 seats has a strong market and is financially sustainable. A facility larger than that could not be supported by the market; if smaller, it could not attract the kinds of acts envisioned and so would not be financially sustainable. Spectacle Management, a privately owned company that manages and books numerous performing arts centers in New England, has evaluated the market and the proposed venue and have signed on to operate it because they are confident that they will earn a profit doing so.
The Center for the Arts will have 750 seats. Approximately 400 will be telescopic seats on the main level with 350 more in the balcony. With stand-only concerts the center can hold 1,000. The main level also will accommodate 250 for events with 10-person round tables and chairs.
These comfortable seats, akin to those found in a Broadway theater, retract into closed storage so that the main level of the theater can accommodate many kinds of events and functions: examples include concerts, weddings, dance recitals, and corporate annual meetings.
A total of $4M was raised in private funding, including $1.5M in donations from individuals, businesses, and foundations as well as NH CDFA tax credit funds, along with $2.5M in New Market Tax Credits. This allowed the City of Nashua to issue a $21M bond, completing the $25 million budget.
The map of parking identifies many more than 750 parking spaces within a three-to-five-minute walk of the Center for the Arts. Studies also show that patrons of performing arts center events are comfortable parking a five-to-ten-minute walk from a venue because they are making an evening of it by both dining and attending events. Other well-known and successful performing arts center venues in the state are located in downtown areas and do not have dedicated parking: The Palace Theater and SNHU Center in Manchester, The Capital Center for the Arts in Concord; and The Music Hall in Portsmouth.
The City has contracted Spectacle Management, an experienced and respected arts venue operator, to run all aspects of the operation. From bookings to marketing to hiring and managing staff to taking out the garbage, Spectacle will be responsible for every aspect of the operations.
The flexibility of the Nashua Center for the Arts means that all kinds of acts will be offered. Spectacle Management operates seven venues in Massachusetts, including the Lowell Memorial Arts Center, the Shalin Liu Performing Arts Center in Rockport, the Larcom Theater in Beverly, Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington, and Plymouth Memorial Hall. Spectacle will be able to attract high-quality, nationally touring acts because it can offer them multiple night bookings with these venues. Acts can range from Melissa Ethridge, The Wallflowers, Chris Isaak, to comedians, dance troupes, or the Vienna Boys Choir. To see real-time examples of the kinds of performances the Nashua Performing Arts Center will attract, visit the websites of these other venues.
Spectacle Management estimates between 130 and 200 days of use per year, attracting 70,000 people to Nashua’s downtown by year three of operations. The flexibility of the space is key to this high usage rate. It will be able to host a small theater-in-the-round performance one night, a nonprofit organization’s annual gala the next, and a nationally touring musician the next.
Yes! You can opt to have a plaque on a seat through the Name A Seat campaign, a star on the wall, and other naming rights throughout the building. They are opportunities to support the new Performing Arts Center in a meaningful way.