MANCHESTER — Officials with the Palace Theatre announced this week they have reached a 10-year partnership with Bellwether Community Credit Union for naming rights at a newly-renovated Rex Theatre, scheduled to open Oct. 1.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Jan. 28 for the renovation project at the Rex Theatre site at 23 Amherst St.
Aldermen voted in October to approve a partnership between the Manchester Development Corporation (MDC) and the Palace Theatre to renovate and operate the Rex Theatre as a performance venue. Under the agreement, the MDC is loaning the Palace Theatre $1.7 million to renovate the building into a 300-seat multi-use theater and function space.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Palace Theatre will repay that loan — with a 2 percent annual interest — over 10 years.
According to a release, for the next 10 years following the opening of the Rex Theatre on Oct. 1, Bellwether Community Credit Union will hold exclusive naming rights in regards to the performance venue’s marquee, point of sale and general marketing. The terms for the agreement begin directly after the Rex opens, the release states.
Peter Ramsey, head of the Palace Theatre Trust, announced the partnership at a meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday.
“They (Bellwether Community Credit Union) will partner with the Rex Theatre for the next 19 years, and help us pay back our loan,” said Ramsey. “It’s an incredible financial institution, and we’re very proud to have them join us.”
“This is a great example of collaboration between public sector and private sector, in terms of Bellwether and not-for-profit Palace Theatre,” said Michael L’Ecuyer, president and CEO of Bellwether Community Credit Union. “We’re thrilled to do this. Any time you’re in a partnership with Peter it’s exciting, and hopefully we can have a little bit of an impact on downtown Manchester. We look forward over the next 10 years to having an impact.”
Ramsey said last week that partnership with Bellwether will generate $250,000 over the next 10 years. He said his group has also applied for a grant that could bring $425,000 if awarded in June.
Also on Tuesday, aldermen unanimously approved, without discussion, a request from Ramsey to waive building permit fees associated with the renovation of the Rex Theatre property. Ramsey estimates the cost for general building permits for the site at $18,000.
Cornerstone Construction is handling the project. Paul Ramsey, former vice president of operations at Eversource, is overseeing the renovation work for the Palace Theatre. Peter and Paul Ramsey are not related.
In 2001, Manchester officials temporarily closed a club at 23 Amherst St. because of crowding they deemed life-threatening and for other safety code violations. A fire that same year also temporarily shuttered the club, which came under scrutiny because of patrons getting arrested after leaving. The club finally closed permanently several years later.
A purchase and sale agreement for the property between the MDC and The Rex LLC — a partnership between philanthropist Liz Hitchcock and Gray Chynoweth, chief membership officer for the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute — fell apart when the pair pulled out of negotiations with the city, saying their plan to use the site as a performance venue was no longer “economically viable.”
That marked the second time in less than a year a potential buyer walked away from a proposal for the property. In March 2017, Matt Wilhelm, executive director of Old Sol Music Hall, Inc. — who proposed a live music venue for the site — said after months of negotiations, Old Sol Productions and the MDC were unable to agree to terms for a purchase and sale agreement.