Caroline Hollister steps around a saw horse and a fresh puddle to adjust a construction light beam through the darkened chamber. She knows that soon it will be replaced with a theatrical spotlight that will illuminate the stage at the once-abandoned Park Theatre in Jaffrey.
“CDFA gave this project the prestige it deserved,” Caroline says proudly. “CDFA recognized the viability of this project.”
Built in 1922, the Park Theatre had hosted movies, vaudeville, and live shows until 1976 when it became a warehouse. Left in disrepair, the building was purchased in 2006 by the Park Theatre Corporation. But raising the $2.9 million to turn the damp mezzanine into a working 400-seat theater in a small New Hampshire town is a formidable challenge.
The Park Theatre received $500,000 in tax credits through CDFA’s Tax Credit Program, also known as the Community Development Investment Program (CDIP). Caroline says businesses were eager to contribute to their cause, especially given that they could deduct 75% of that gift from their state BPT, BET, or Insurance Premium taxes.
“It was a powerful tool,” she says. “So powerful, some business people couldn’t believe it. We had to explain that [the CDFA Tax Credit Program] has been successful for 30 years.”
In FY2011, CDFA awarded more than $5 million to community development projects across NH in the areas of housing, economic development, and heritage/culture projects. This project, for example, will create 75 construction jobs, five full-time theater positions, and draw residents from 26 surrounding communities – providing a $482,000 annual economic boost for downtown Jaffrey.
Today, the theater still has peeling paint, ripped seats, and rusted beams, but renovations are not far away. After switching off the construction light and feeling her way to the door, Caroline turns back and peers into the cavernous blackness.
“It’s the kind of dark, before the show starts, where there’s a great sense of anticipation. How excited everyone is,” she says. “I imagine it’s Opening Night and the whole community is here to celebrate.”