Memorial Boulevard School could become theater, arts center

Published on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 22:28
Written by BRIAN M. JOHNSON

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL - The Bristol City Council will discuss plans for either opening a theater at Memorial Boulevard School or moving the City Hall there at a meeting June 20.

The Joint Board (Board of Finance and City Council) will meet at 6 p.m. in the council chambers to discuss the plans, after which a special city council meeting will follow.

Mayor Ken Cockayne said that councilors Jodi Zils Gagne and Dave Mills proposed moving the City Hall to the currently vacant school as a cost-saving measure. However, Cockayne said that the move would cost $40 million.

“During Art Ward’s administration, they talked about this plan and voted not to move City Hall,” said Cockayne. “It was also talked about during my last term, and they decided not to move again. The Memorial Boulevard Task Force released a report July 14 2015, that said that this would be the most expensive plan for the building. I’m not sold on this plan; it would cost a lot of money.”

Cockayne said that he does support a plan to transform the building into a community arts center. To do that, he said, the city would have to begin by creating a theater. Cockayne estimated that the theater would cost $12 to $13 million.

“One plan calls for creating a 500-seat theater, which would accommodate our current level of parking,” said Cockayne. “The other would create a 750-seat theater. To do that, we would either need to get more land or go to zoning and ask for a variance, which I don’t think is likely. There needs to be enough room to park.”

Cockayne said that he wants to make sure that the theater project is “done right.”

“The theater is a solid phase one in order to create a city arts center,” he said. “However, it is my belief that there are some in favor of the theater, though, who are trying to rush it.”

If one of the theater plans is approved, Cockayne said that the next step will be to speak with the 10 year Capital Improvement Committee.

“They have already put $5 million toward the project, so we would have to go to them to ask for more money,” he said. “Then it would go to the Board of Finance after that before it goes before the Joint Board for them to vote on.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Arts, Bristol, General News on Tuesday, 13 June 2017 22:28. Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2017 22:31.