EASTHAMPTON — Vacant auditorium space in the city’s old Town Hall is set to be transformed into a multi-function facility for performances and various events.
The City Council recently approved the supplemental appropriation of $206,479 from Community Preservation Act accounts to fund the design and engineering costs to restore the second floor of the old Town Hall. The work would also include bringing the space up to code.
The building is owned by the city and since 2007, it has been rented by CitySpace Inc., a nonprofit established to revitalize and maintain the old Town Hall on 43 Main St.
“Our mission is to restore, preserve and manage old Town Hall as a vital center for the arts in the city of Easthampton,” President of CitySpace Ed Check said.
Three tenants occupy the first floor: Easthampton City Arts+, Big Red Frame and Elusie Gallery, and Flywheel Arts Collective.
CitySpace plans to demolish the existing stage, which is not part of the original structure, to form an office, bathrooms, green room and loft space for storage. The organization also plans to provide elevator accessibility to the second floor.
CitySpace says renovations also include a new second floor box office, balcony access, theatrical lighting, acoustic treatments, a new sound and projection system, moveable seating and stage platforms, and a new heating and cooling system.
All work funded by the CPA grant must be completed by Dec. 20, 2018. The total estimated cost of the project is $4.5 to $4.8 million.
Built in 1869, the Town Hall held offices and the library, and later the police department headquarters. The second floor ballroom hosted Town Meeting, Policemen’s Balls, community dances, basketball games and minstrel performances.
City Councilor Joy Winnie calls the landmark the “beacon of Easthampton.”
Winnie said she recently visited the auditorium space of the old Town Hall and said she had visions of the building coming back to its full glory.
“I imagined the City Council having their inaugural ball, as they did 100 years ago,” Winnie said.
Couniclor Daniel Rist called the Town Hall an “economic driver.”
“It will bring people into our city, into our restaurants, our businesses” he said. “This is just one more jewel for Easthampton to have.”
In 2014, the City Council voted unanimously to approve $256,000 for entry and lobby restoration.
City Council president Joseph McCoy has asked the council and mayor to establish a special act to allow a lease of 40 years or longer between the city and CitySpace. McCoy said such a long-term lease would allow tax credits and help with long-term plans to renovate the building’s second floor.
“These tax credits are in the millions of dollars,” Check said.
The special act request will be discussed in subcommittee.
Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.