I have not expressed support for the city to purchase the Park Theater with $6.1 million dollars in federal/state grant funding as proposed by the Mayor and his administration. On August 28, 2023, …
I have not expressed support for the city to purchase the Park Theater with $6.1 million dollars in federal/state grant funding as proposed by the Mayor and his administration. On August 28, 2023, the Mayor and his chief of staff Anthony Moretti invited me and several other city officials to a Learn 365 discussion. At that meeting the mayor informed us that the state allocated $6.1 million dollars in federal/state grant funds to the City to purchase a property for a community center that would include required educational, health and community components. Further, he informed us that he had already spoken with the Governor about purchasing the Park Theater with these funds.
This was the very first time I had ever heard of such a proposal. I expressed my concern that this would potentially cost the city too much money in the long run, stating that I did not want this to become a “black hole of debt” for the city. Keep in mind that there was no mention of the over $30,000 in back taxes owed as recently reported in the news. This fact has only heightened my concerns with this proposal.
At the time of this meeting on August 28th, the condition of the building was not yet ascertained, which was also very concerning to me. I stated clearly that I don’t understand how we as a city could entertain such a purchase without knowing the exact condition of the property. Afterall, who in their right mind would ever make such an investment without an inspection and assessment? Not to mention the fact that the Park Theater management has been vocal with the news media about the extensive repairs needed for their property. The administration responded that they would have a contractor determine the condition of the building. The other property mentioned at this meeting as a candidate for these same funds was Arlington Elementary School. It was being considered as a partial renovation project instead of the purchase of the Park Theater. Although I mentioned the idea of potentially expanding on a library property, perhaps the Central library, that was shot down by the administration at this meeting. The mayor and his administration did not have much in the way of specifics, noting that they were going to investigate it further and once they had more details, they would inform the general public with two options in order to get community input since the deadline was coming up in October.
My concern was clearly warranted; and remains so. I do not envision our city government taking on the role of a private entertainment business or a building that has had a history of financial struggles. Historic as the Park Theater may be, it has clearly struggled to be a successful private business venture. I do not support the government taking on the responsibility of ownership of the Park Theater.”