A Brief History
First opened in Jaffrey in 1922, The Park Theatre was the center of community life as a movie and vaudeville house for 54 years. In 1976 the facility became a retail store and warehouse until it was purchased by The Park Theatre Corporation in 2005. The Theatre will be rebuilt as a sustainable, state-of-the-art film and performing arts center, featuring two auditoriums and presenting movies, live theatre, including children’s productions, concerts, live acts, lectures and symposiums as well as a venue for community and business gatherings for the Monadnock Region and its 100,000 residents, school districts and dynamic artistic community.
Architectural Feasibility Report: The New Park Theatre
Need For The Facility
The construction of the new Park Theatre will serve as a critical element for the revitalization of the Jaffrey downtown. The Park Theatre will provide a professional and modern venue for plays, shows, music and movies. The nearest similar facility with this capacity is located in Keene. Performances in venues like the Park Theatre typically bring to the local economy on average $18 – $21 per attendee. It is projected conservatively that the Park Theatre will bring somewhere between $480,000 and $520,000 to the local economy each year.
The site originally held a store built in the 1920s, where the attached barn was first used to show movies and then expanded over the years into a larger venue for larger audiences. Unfortunately, the building sat unmaintained and empty for years. This allowed water infiltration and subsequent damage including mold and structural damage. The building was built with many asbestos-containing materials, lead paint and other hazardous materials. The degradation of much of the original structure due largely to weather, along with the multiple hazardous material removal costs, led to the decision to demolish the building in December of 2013. There were several worthwhile ‘to be saved’ historic elements to the building which are presently in safe storage for future use: two period wall sconces, four historic murals, a men’s room urinal and several horsehair and leather theatre seats.
The Park Theatre will be a 15,100 square foot building with a 365-seat Auditorium and Stage area. Supporting the Stage area are Dressing Rooms, an Orchestra Pit, Storage Rooms and a Stage Fly. The building will also include a 100-seat Auditorium and Meeting Room for more intimate performances, seminars, classrooms, community gatherings and smaller venues. A Main Lobby, Ticket Booth and bathrooms will be placed at the Main Street Entry. A fully equipped handicap elevator will serve all floors and the building will otherwise be fully handicap accessible. The building façade will use an Art Deco period look to recapture an element of sentimentality for the 1920s era and as homage to the original theatre with the founder’s home on top. There are over 900 parking spaces available within 300 yards of the building.
The building site is at 19 Main Street in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and was chosen because the previous Park Theatre was built on this site. The original intent was to renovate the old building, but, given the presence of substantial hazardous substances and non-compliant building materials, that was not practical. The urban lot is 0.2227 acres in size or 9,207 square feet.
The contractor’s final cost estimate for the construction is $3,667,740. The total proposed square footage of the building is 15,100. This equates to $242.90/sf which in our opinion is well within the range of square foot costs for theatre-type buildings.
The small urban site will cause staging and delivery challenges during construction. The owner has acquired easements from its abutter and the contractor intends to carefully schedule deliveries to avoid over taxing the limited staging area. The commonly designed structural steel frame, light gauge metal studs and drywall construction otherwise should not cause problems.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The support consistently demonstrated by the amount of personal, business and foundation donations is evidence of widespread support and community recognition of the need for The Park Theatre. The Town of Jaffrey Zoning and Planning Boards have regularly and consistently shown their support as well with their consistent approvals of all needed variances. The cost of the new building is reasonable, and the construction means and methods are practical. We have supported the original dream since 2008, recognize the community need, and think the costs are reasonable. We have designed the Theatre to be modern but practical. The practical design will lead to practical construction means and methods. Lastly, we will look forward to attending shows at the Theatre when completed. ❦
BKA Architects, Inc., Boston and Brockton, Massachusetts