The cost of a downtown performing arts center will jump from $15.5 million to $21 million under a proposal introduced to aldermen on Wednesday.
The proposal, sponsored by Mayor Jim Donchess, recommends an additional $8 million for the project and associated parking; $15.5 million has already been approved for the arts center at the former Alec’s shoe store at 201 Main St.
If the additional funding is approved, $5.5 million would be reserved for the construction of the arts center and the remaining $2.5 million would be used to build a lower level public parking complex as part of the abutting School Street Flats apartment project.
“The new total amount needed for the performance arts center project will now be $21 million,” states the proposal. Although the city previously applied for New Market Tax Credits to provide financial assistance for the theater, the awards were announced in July and the performing arts center was not among the list of winners. Mascoma Community Development LLC in Lebanon received $65,000, and it was the only New Hampshire entity to be awarded New Market Tax Credits.
The newly proposed $8 million bond to cover additional funds for the arts center and the proposed public parking complex are expected to be paid through a Tax Increment Financing District, a separate proposal that was also introduced to aldermen on Wednesday.
Both proposals are being assigned to aldermanic committees and will be studied in further detail before being voted on by the full Board of Aldermen.
“We would have public parking right across from the arena,” Donchess said of the proposal to construct a lower level public parking complex on School Street where Lansing Melbourne Group, LLC is hoping to build a 150-unit apartment complex on an existing city-owned parking lot.
Tim Cummings, Nashua economic development director, said the residents of the future apartment building would not utilize the new public parking complex. Instead, he said the developer is willing to lease up to 150 parking spaces at the adjacent High Street parking garage for its occupants.
By establishing a Tax Increment Financing District, Cummings said the proposed parking complex will not only provide additional parking for the downtown area, but also help the performing arts center as well.
“That seems to be a real win-win for us,” Alderman Lori Wilshire, president of the board, said recently of the recommended TIF, adding she would like city officials to pursue that idea.
Laura Colquhoun, who has been a vocal opponent of the performing arts center, said Wednesday that during this pandemic and financial crisis, it is unbelievable city officials would consider spending more money on this project.
“Nashua taxpayers do not have the money for any more projects,” said Colquhoun, adding property taxes are already set to increase in 2021. “ … Many commercial properties are based on income, and with the pandemic, their incomes have been reduced and therefore they will be paying lower property taxes. That is the reality of what Nashua taxpayers are facing …” In order to move forward, the arts center must still raise its initial $4 million in private donations.
Earlier this year, aldermen granted the capital campaign committee 18 more months to raise its required $4 million in private donations, meaning it now has until Aug. 31, 2021.
While the exact amount raised in private donations has not been disclosed, at least $850,000 has been raised to date, according to larger donations that have been announced publicly in recent months.
Colquhoun said she worries that, if the $4 million in private donations are not met, residents will have to pick up that tab as well.