May 4, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Don‘t miss your cue
By Jeff Rapsis

What’s to be the fate of the city-owned Court Street property?

The former fire alarm headquarters is now one of the few outposts of the performing arts in downtown Nashua. The city’s recent budget crunch means it may be sold, and that’s where you come in.

No, not because you should buy it. But the notion of selling the building, as short-sighted as that is, has at least prompted one good outcome—an auditorium commission has been charged by the Board of Aldermen to make a recommendation for future use.

Okay, here’s where you really come in. Commission members have scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, May 11, at 7 p.m. in the third-floor auditorium of City Hall. As commission member Tony O’Malley put it, they believe “it’s important to hear from the community at large and solicit their thoughts on the future of the facility.”

Got that? So if you believe that downtown Nashua should hold on to one of the few non-restaurant attractions it currently has, then it’s a good chance to let city leaders know how important it is that the Court Street facility remain dedicated to the performing arts.

OK, so it’s no Palace Theatre, the vintage downtown theater in Manchester that runs a full calendar of performances. And it’s no Capitol Center for the Arts, a larger and more luxurious showplace that Concord leaders successfully revived over the past decade.

But the Court Street facility, tattered though it may be, at least keeps the performing arts alive in Nashua’s downtown. That’s important not just for the economic and quality-of-life benefits it brings, but (get ready for another show-biz term) for the continuity.

Consider: By serving as a home for groups as diverse as the Nashua Theatre Guild and the Nashua Symphony, the Court Street facility stands as a crucial link to something better.

When the time comes for the community to finally get its act together on the performing arts, it will in part be due to the demand. And that demand will be all the easier to demonstrate if we keep the arts alive.

Conversely, it will be all the more difficult to justify building up Nashua’s performing arts if we let the city sell the property to a landlord eager to see immediate economic results, which the performing arts generally do not provide.

It’s a long-term proposition that takes long-term vision. Community leaders in Manchester showed it in the mid-1970s when they rescued the Palace Theatre from oblivion. Leaders in Concord (a city half the size of Nashua) showed it in the mid-1990s when they began rescuing the neglected downtown theater that became the Capitol Center for the Arts.

And in Nashua? It’s a more difficult proposition because there’s no convenient old theater waiting to be restored. All we’ve got is the old fire alarm station that was rebuilt in the 1960s as an “arts and science” center, but has been in limbo ever since.

And now, if some short-sighted non-visionaries have their way, we’re about to lose even that, unless the public clearly demonstrates its interest in keeping it open as a performing arts facility.

OK, now it’s really your cue. Come to City Hall on Thursday, May 11, at 7 p.m. and let the commission know how you feel..


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