Performing arts center reaches new stage

July 14, 2010

Long-awaited downtown GCC project gets $1M

A planned performing arts center in downtown Greenfield has moved a step closer to reality with $1 million in federal funding approved as part of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations budget. Approval by the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. John W. Olver, D-Mass., is the first step for a critical piece of funding for the $16 million Greenfield Community College theater as part of an overall redevelopment that includes the former First National Bank Building. The project would make space for a GCC theater by moving most of the Garden Cinema screens to the adjacent former First National Bank.

“GCC has been waiting a long time for a performing arts center that will meet the needs of its locally renowned arts program,” said Olver in announcing the subcommittee’s approval. “The creative restoration and repurposing of these two d ow n t ow n historic landmarks will bring enormous economic and cultural benefits to the region. The commitment and perseverance of both public and private partners in this project has truly been uplifting.”

The project, which has already been approved for historic tax credits, still needs to be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee as part of an overall federal budget that has to win House and Senate approval in a fiscally challenging year.

But GCC President Robert L. Pura said, “We’re very excited about the potential for this passing through to the final budget.” He pointed to Olver’s continued support for the project, which has its roots in a 2004 recommendation for enhancing the “creative economy” as part of his Northern Tier Initiative for economic development.

“It’s clear to us that the college needs a performing arts center for applied learning opportunities,” Pura said, adding that in addition to college presentations and visiting lectures, the center can also offer “a livingroom experience for the community to come together. This will be a very exciting addition to downtown Greenfield and a centerpiece for Franklin County.”

Consideration by the full House and Senate is expected in either July or this fall. A spokeswoman for Olver said it’s unclear how this project will fare through the remainder of the budgetary process, but she added, “We’re happy that it’s past the first hurdle.”

GCC is the only one of 15 community colleges in Massachusetts that does not have a performing arts center to support its academic programming, and no performing arts venue exists, either on the GCC campus or in Franklin County that allows for major artistic presentations, noted project proponents.

Under plans for the project, the Garden Cinema will move five of its seven movie screens into the former bank building on Bank Row to allow restoration of the original theater space.

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or (413) 772-0261 Ext. 269

By RICHIE DAVIS, Recorder Staff