Nashua performing arts center

This artist rendering depicts the exterior facade of the future performing arts center in downtown Nashua, which will soon be under construction.

The construction phase of the new downtown performing arts center is officially underway — a major milestone for a project that has been years in the making and seen its share of controversy.

“We are proceeding with construction of the performing arts center here in Nashua. We were able to secure all the financing necessary,” said Tim Cummings, economic development director for the city.

The former Alec’s Shoe store building at 201 Main St. will soon be demolished to pave way for the $25 million theater complex.

“We will start construction in earnest in the next two months or so. You will see some light demolition over the next two months and then heavy demolition in and around March,” Cummings said.

Construction should take about a year-and-a-half, with the building open for the summer of 2022, he said.

Aldermen initially OK’d a $15.5 million bond for the arts center. In October the board approved an additional $5.5 million bond for the project — a request that was not supported by all of the city aldermen. An additional $4 million in private donations and tax credits was also required.

“People were hardly overwhelmingly in favor of this when, at the time, it was a $15.5 million project. Now it is a $25 million project,” Alderman Ernest Jette said in October.

Rich Lannan, president of Nashua Community Arts, said an attached, four-story red brick building along West Pearl Street will remain standing and be used for a section of the arts center.

Harvey Construction has been hired for the project, according to Lannan, who said a significant amount of utility work must be completed first. He said about 200 donors have contributed to the project; the public portion of the fundraising campaign was launched at the end of last year.

“We are very excited,” Lannan said. “It was a lot of hard work from a lot of people and City Hall to get to this stage.”

Mascoma Community Development announced Friday that it recently closed on a New Markets Tax Credit allocation of $2.466 million for the development of the arts center, which will be operated by Spectacle Management.

“Nashua’s new performing arts center will serve as a vital source for attracting visitors to Nashua, as well as amplify the growth of the city’s downtown and the creative economy in the region,” Dick Jennings, managing director of Mascoma Community Development, said in a news release.

Mayor Jim Donchess said in a statement that the tax credit funding ensures that the arts center will become a reality.

“Nashua’s performing arts center will help us build a stronger downtown economy, support our city’s creative community and enhance the experience of spending time in our downtown,” Donchess said, thanking Mascoma Community Development for working with the city on the project.

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