PHILIP SCONTSAS AND I recently chatted about the proposed four-story Nashua Performing Arts Center (PAC) project at 201 Main St. It’s a desirable corner lot sitting squarely in the heart of Nashua. It used to be home to former retail standouts Miller’s department store and later, Alec’s Shoes.
Like many residents here, I am pro-arts, but have reservations about PAC’s viability. Has the city bitten off more than it could chew? Would the new center fill?
Scontsas has been in business for some 40 years now, and his beautiful store, Scontsas Fine Jewelry & Home Decor, is but a block away from the proposed performing arts center. Scontsas is a smart businessman, well-liked across the city and has seen many changes here over the years. If anyone knows Main Street, he does.
PAC to him is a must-do for Nashua. He said he learned long ago that if a community’s downtown is full of life, then the city will prosper as a welcoming place.
“A thriving Main Street is the heartbeat or pulse of your city,” he said.
He believes that the proposed state-of-the-art center is an ideal size, seating up to 750 people with retractable chairs to accommodate a variety of musical and theatrical performances and events. The city project is being financed through a $15.5 million bond and includes among other aspects, a $2.5 million private capital campaign.
(A new proposal sponsored by Mayor Jim Donchess, is recommending an additional $8 million for the project and associated parking. It was introduced to aldermen on Sept. 9.)
Some taxpayers have blasted the proposed plan for being pricey and elaborate.
“It’s not a Taj Mahal,” Scontsas emphasized.
He described it as “a wonderful investment for Nashua” that would draw people from all over and offer convenience with our nearby parking garages.
How about Elm Street Auditorium?
“It doesn’t serve as a multi-use building, is housed in more of a residential area, lacks parking and pizzazz and isn’t worth renovating,” is Scontsas’ take.
He believes Nashua deserves better.
“Donors are stepping up to the plate,” he says, and the type and size of this venue show “smart, thoughtful planning.” He credits Rich Lannan and Judy Carlson, who serve on PAC’s Steering Committee, as being fine champions of the project and forward thinkers.
Property management company Brady Sullivan handed the city a $100,000 leadership gift for Nashua PAC in July, and more donations are rolling in, according to Scontsas, who’s a member of the project’s Capital Campaign Committee.
Scontsas sees an enviable triple crown for the future of Nashua’s downtown:
1. Renovating historic factory buildings off Main Street for more housing.
2. Starting construction of the Downtown Riverfront Master Plan.
3. Building the Nashua Performing Arts Center.
Joan Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at email@example.com.