HUDSON FALLS — The spotlight is back on the Hudson River Music Hall’s plan to buy Kingsbury Town Hall, renovate it and re-open the historic Strand Theater.
“There is a revival going on around the country. No one wants to lose any more theaters like this,” said Jane Havens, a local businesswoman who is coordinating the “Strand Revival Committee.”
“Look at the one in Ticonderoga. It’s a Rite Aid now,” she said.
In Plattsburgh, on the other hand, a local arts group is in the final year of a $450,000 fundraising and renovation project that is re-opening a Strand much like the Hudson Falls building as a community arts hub.
“I don’t want the enthusiasm Jane talks about to go away this time,” said Rene Roberge, drama director at Hudson Falls High School. Roberge is also active with Hudson River Music Hall, which is the driving force behind the project.
Music Hall Director Jonathan Newell said the expansion to the Strand would be a natural next step for the group, which started in December 2010 at the Old Washington County Courthouse and is now in a building next door to it.
“Just before our first concert in the courthouse I was asked what I hoped HRMH was going to be. I hope that HRMH is what the community needs it to be,” Newell said. “If the community needs a bigger showcase for the village and an institution for the performing arts in its daily presence, the opportunity is happening right now.”
The renovation project has the town and village board working directly with community members. Village Trustee Robert Cook was at the most recent committee meeting and said the village is amenable to having some of the town offices, most likely the court, at the Village Hall. That would mean the town could look for a smaller building for its other office.
Town board members Paul Bromley and Rich Doyle were also at the recent committee, and Supervisor James Lindsay has expressed support in the past.
“The town has asked for public support before they can decide if they should move out and then sell the building,” Newell said. “I think that’s the way it should be. Part of the job of the Strand Revival Committee is to get the word out to the citizens that these meetings will be a public forum.”
The project seemed to have a great deal of momentum at the beginning of 2013, when the town was examining possible renovations at Village Hall that would allow it to move there. At $1.25 million or more, those plans proved to be far too expensive, and the town started to look at alternate sites.
The Strand Revival Committee has picked up that goal.
One of the original ideas was for the village to take the current music hall at 10 Maple St. for its offices, but there are handicapped accessibility issues there.
The downtown Bank Commons building, owned by developer Pete Hoffman, has also been discussed. At the most recent committee meeting, the possibility of the Griffin Paints building on Pearl Street came up.
The committee is searching for other ideas and will hold a meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday in the Village Hall.
“I think the best plan is going to come to light,” Havens said. “I think people are recognizing the seriousness of the commitment, and I think there are good points and locations coming to light.”
Beyond finding a site, committee members are seeking to raise community awareness of the project.
Toward that end, there will be a public event and presentation at Hudson Falls High School as part of the “Raise the Roof for Grace Park” event. Newell said an Elvis performance artist will be on stage that night, and the Strand event, which could include a chicken barbecue, will precede that. The revival committee is also discussing taking part in the Memorial Day parade.
The Town Hall building, at 210 Main St., has been assessed at $175,000. Renovating it as a functioning theater would require lighting, a sound system and a larger stage, Newell said. The cost estimate is between $300,000 and $400,000 to resurrect the building as a theater. The building was used as a theater from its opening in the 1920s until its closure in the 1960s.
Newell and his group have been looking to the Plattsburgh facility as inspiration.
Plattsburgh, however, got a state grant for much of the cost. The Hudson Falls Strand will require quite a bit more fundraising,
Newell said Sandy Hill Foundation pledged $100,000, there have been other donations. He also noted the theater has obtained financing for the project through the Albany-based Community Loan Fund. “We also have other private individuals who have said they will contribute once the sale goes through,” he said.
The theater area is upstairs in the building. The theater seats on the ground level were removed and the area was filled with sand and capped with concrete, creating a foundation for town offices. A flat plywood surface now extends from the former balcony, serving as a ceiling for the offices.
Newell has discussed having commercial offices and retail sites in the lower part of the building, which the town is now using. Newell has the theater seats in storage.