Easthampton’s Old Town Hall in line for $750K

  • Old Town Hall in Easthampton GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2021 12:59:37 PM

EASTHAMPTON — A bill including $750,000 for Old Town Hall renovations is on the governor’s desk after passing the state Legislature last week.

Efforts to secure the funding, which is included in the state’s $626 million economic development bill, have been “a year in the making,” said Burns Maxey, president of CitySpace. The arts organization oversees the restoration and management of the Old Town Hall building and is converting its second floor, which for nearly two decades sat unused and closed to the public, into a 350-seat performance space.

The funding would go toward making the second floor accessible and contribute to long-term affordability, according to the organization, which has signed a 44-year lease on the space with the city. Renovations also include a new box office, elevator, entryway, theatrical lighting, balcony access, and new sound and projection systems. Overall, the project comes with a $6.9 million price tag.

In addition to bringing the organization closer to its fundraising goal, the funding “would help us leverage further funding,” Maxey said. “It helps us get one step closer to making this project happen.”

Movement on the bill began when CitySpace, looking for state funding resources, reached out to state Rep. Dan Cary and state Sen. John Velis. Cary and Velis visited the space, Burns said, and CitySpace gained the legislators’ support in pushing the funding request forward.

The project has drawn from diverse funding sources so far, Maxey said, including $3 million pledged by Easthampton Community Preservation Committee; tax credits; $200,000 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund; two private donations of $250,00 each; and numerous other donations ranging from $5 to thousands of dollars.

“I think so many aspects of the project resonate with so many people because it’s such an icon of a building in Easthampton,” Maxey said. As part of the city’s Main Street Historic District, the building also has a “historic preservation side to it,” she added, and CitySpace’s efforts aim to create affordability for the arts.

Performances at the space will also send people “directly into our community” afterward, Maxey said, “spending dollars forward so that they’ll be impacting our local economy as well.”

CitySpace also hosts Big Red Frame and Easthampton City Arts in the building.

City Councilor Owen Zaret called the project “a keystone piece to the redevelopment and ongoing development of the city as a whole.”

“Especially in the midst of COVID, any bright spot that shows businesses are moving forward, as opposed to closing, is worth praising,” Zaret said.

The project’s impact became more visibile after the COVID-19 pandemic, Maxey added.

“Once we get past this pandemic, we’ll be poised to get this project moving forward and open up to having that space available,” Maxey said, “and really being part of the economic development.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature on the bill would finalize the funding.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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