John Koutsos watched silently Tuesday as the Alec’s Shoes sign was removed from the Main Street building he owned for more than two decades — soon to be the site of Nashua’s $25 million performing arts center.
“This has been the skyline for downtown Nashua for so long,” said Koutsos. “But I think this is good and I think the city is ready.”
The building housed Alec’s Shoes from 1995 to 2016, and was previously occupied by Miller’s Department Store and Sunlight Pharmacy. People gathered downtown to watch the month-long demolition process begin, saying farewell to a downtown fixture and eager for what is to come.
“I am excited. I think this is great progress for the city,” Koutsos said while joining the crowd of onlookers.
The 750-seat theater is expected to take about 18 months to complete and will be managed by Spectacle Management.
“Now to actually see this first physical step take place is exciting. This has been a long time coming,” said Peter Lally, president of Spectacle Management who was on hand for the start of demolition.
His firm is also managing the Colonial Theatre in Laconia, which is set to open later this month after a $14 million renovation.
Construction fencing surrounds the building at the corner of Main and West Pearl streets, and the excavator will continue working for about the next three or four weeks to complete the demolition.
“There are a lot of good memories here between Alec’s and Miller’s Department Store, but we are very excited. The building is finally coming down and the project has officially started,” said Rich Lannan, chairman of the performing arts center steering committee.
While the planning process has taken about two years, it is refreshing to see demolition get underway and construction soon slated to begin, said Lannan.
With cameras and cellphones in hand, several pedestrians stopped to take photographs of the building while the excavator worked to remove the letters from the former Alec’s Shoes sign and a portion of the front exterior of the building.
Watching from across the street, Mayor Jim Donchess said the new performing arts center will help build a strong economic base for the downtown, as well as provide more activity and new patrons for existing businesses.
“I am very optimistic about what this is going to do for the city,” said Donchess. Lannan agreed, saying the new theater will not only be beautiful, but also functional.
It will have 750 seats and accommodate up to 1,000 people for standing-room only functions, as well as 250 people for functions that require tables and chairs.
“To finally see a visible change at the site is certainly exciting. We have already seen a great deal of new interest in downtown because of this project,” said Paul Shea, executive director of Great American Downtown.
Harvey Construction is managing the project. The theater is expected to be open during the summer of 2022.