Renovations to upper floor of Easthampton’s Old Town Hall set to begin

  • Initial renovations are beginning to the upper floor of Easthampton’s Old Town Hall to turn the space into a flexible arts performance venue. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Burns Maxey, who’s now president of CitySpace, walks through the second-floor ballroom of the Old Town Hall last March. Below, the space as seen from the balcony. STAFF FILE PHOTOS

  • The second floor of Easthampton Town Hall as seen from the balcony, Friday, March 8, 2019.

Staff Writer
Published: 2/3/2022 8:44:28 AM

EASTHAMPTON — For years, town planners, arts organizations and others have envisioned turning the upper floor of Old Town Hall into a dedicated performance space.

Now the project’s getting underway.

CitySpace, the nonprofit group that manages Old Town Hall and leases space there to Easthampton City Arts and Big Red Frame/Elusie Gallery, is starting the first phase of the $6.9 million restoration of the building by revamping its basic infrastructure.

This initial project, pegged at $511,000, will add a new HVAC system and prepare the building’s air systems for energy-efficient use, according to CitySpace, and it will also upgrade the electrical system of Town Hall, which was built in 1869.

The work, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will lay the groundwork for more expansive renovations starting in 2023 that are designed to turn the 3,500-square-foot upper floor into a fully accessible, flexible performance space that can seat 350 people.

“This is not a new project — it’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time,” City Councilor Dan Rist said last fall. “I consider it the single most important impactful project this city has going forward for economic development. ... I’m excited that we are starting it.”

CitySpace says it had originally intended to do the $6.9 million project in one stage. But after consulting last summer with Kuhn Riddle Architects in Amherst, planners say they discovered doing the work in phases made sense.

CitySpace is financing the work through a variety of means, including money from the city’s reserve fund, the Massachusetts Cultural Council Cultural Facilities Fund, and private donations. Burns Maxey, CitySpace president, says the organization has raised over $4.2 million for the full project.

That’s not all the group has done. Last November, CitySpace reopened Old Town Hall’s first floor for arts and community events, rehearsal space for musicians and other artists, and non-public events.

Maxey says turning Old Town Hall into a regular venue for the arts will have a positive effect on the economy for both the city and the region.

“I am so thrilled to see this project begin,” she said in a statement. “The incomparable support of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Mass Development, Easthampton Community Preservation Act Committee, and the generosity of our western Massachusetts friends, neighbors, and businesses is why we are able to make these infrastructure improvements.”

In addition, CitySpace has just received a $100,000 donation for its Town Hall renovation work from the Mabel Louise Riley Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Boston.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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