bankESB donates $50K to CitySpace’s plans for arts venue

  • In this 2016 photo, Burns Maxey, vice president and board member of CitySpace and a coordinator for Easthampton City Arts+, walks through the second floor ballroom of the Old Town Hall. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 3/12/2021 5:05:31 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Ongoing efforts to renovate Old Town Hall’s second floor into a performance space have been bolstered by a $50,000 donation from bankESB, with the organization pledging an additional $100,000 once CitySpace, the arts organization managing the building, comes closer to its $6.9 million fundraising goal.

CitySpace is currently working to transform the second floor of Old Town Hall, which for almost 20 years was unused and closed to the public, into a 350-seat performance space. CitySpace signed a 44-year lease on the building with the city.

The donation “will help us get to our next step,” said Burns Maxey, president of CitySpace, “and I think this gift will absolutely impact the project, because it inspires generosity as well as really leading other businesses to be giving towards the project.”

The bank has promised the remaining $100,000 once CitySpace receives more funding as part of an effort to encourage other local businesses to donate to the project, according to Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB.

“The Old Town Hall is an iconic building in downtown Easthampton,” Sosik said in a statement, “and CitySpace’s efforts will help ensure it remains an important and vibrant part of the arts culture and economic development within our community.”

CitySpace has so far received about $4.1 million in donations, pledges and other contributions, including $3 million pledged by the Easthampton Community Preservation Committee; $200,000 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund; two private donations of $250,00 each; and various other small or multi-thousand-dollar donations. Additionally, CitySpace is on track to receive a $750,000 allocation from the state’s economic development bill and draws some funding from tax credits.

Renovations to the second floor include a new box office, an elevator, an entryway, balcony access, theatrical lighting, and new sound and projection systems. Donations also contribute to long-term affordability.

In addition to the planned theater upstairs, Big Red Frame and Easthampton City Arts currently have spaces in the building. Flywheel Arts Collective left the building in December, and CitySpace is discussing how to use that space.

BankESB made the donation following conversations with CitySpace and a tour of the building, Maxey said.

“I think they’re really as excited as we are about the potential for economic development opportunities in western Massachusetts following the reopening of the country,” Maxey said, noting that shows at the theater would bring more patrons to downtown businesses.

“There are so many people who, when they participate in the arts in our community, they go to these events, then they go to restaurants, hotels,” she said. “There are ample opportunities to buy from other local stores and share economic development in the area.”

CitySpace plans to complete the fundraising campaign in 2022 and open the theater toward the end of the year in 2023, Maxey said, though this opening date could arrive earlier if fundraising finishes ahead of schedule.

“The project is ready to go,” Maxey said. “We have all the plans in place — we just need the funding in place.”

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

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