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Capital projects to refurbish the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center will likely cost the Town of New Castle about $1 million as town officials evaluate how to make the necessary upgrades and ultimately operate the facility.
Although completing repairs and operating the 420-seat theater remain question marks, the Town Board came to a consensus last week that it needs to approve spending $380,700 for a new roof for the venue. Part of that cost will be offset by a $125,000 state grant obtained by Assemblyman Chris Burdick.
“At the end of the day, the roof is a must-have, not a nice-to-have,” said Town Administrator Jill Shapiro.
Other major improvements needed are upgrades to the HVAC system and addressing drainage issues around the building, which could threaten the electrical system, Shapiro said. Comptroller Robert Deary estimated the capital improvements could run about $1 million.
Board members said they want to protect the building, which is a valuable asset for the community, but don’t want to haphazardly sink significant sums of money into the facility without having a firmer grasp of the condition of the building and what repairs may end up costing.
There is also the issue of what organization should operate the theater. Currently, the town is handling that responsibility and has been booking events. Last year, the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center generated $69,287 in revenue from events but the town incurred $118,448.78 in expenses.
“We’re asking for a lot of money and I want to make sure that if we’re going to start out a million dollars in capital improvements there has to be an end in sight and there has to be a game plan,” said Councilwoman Ally Chemtob. “So I don’t want to do it piecemeal – a roof here, an HVAC there. I want there to be a comprehensive plan for what we do with ChappPac.”
Supervisor Lisa Katz said that while watching the bottom line is critical, there are benefits the theater is bringing the town. New Castle spends money on its parks and recreational facilities and recently spend about $500,000 to replace the roof on its community center because it is an asset.
Also, having a performing arts center in town draws customers to town restaurants and other establishments.
“We really don’t make that back,” Katz said. “We have a lot of things in our town that are for the benefit of our residents.”
She added that the nonprofit Friends of ChappPac has been working to find donations, grants and other outside sources of funding that would lessen the burden on the town.
In 2017, the town had reached an agreement with Summit Development, the Chappaqua Crossing developer, to take ownership of the theater, which was previously called the Wallace Auditorium, for $1. The auditorium had been built by Reader’s Digest and has been subsequently renamed by the town. The deed to the building and the property around it was officially deeded to the town late last year, said Town Attorney Edward Phillips.
Councilman Jeremy Saland said putting together a plan with real numbers and finding an entity to operate it for the town should be the goal.
“I don’t think anyone’s advocating for just getting rid of it because I think it is an asset,” Saland said. “But we have to figure out the best means to maintain it, enrich our community, generate dollars if people want to come into our community, invest in our community while also keeping the (expenditure of) dollars at a reasonable amount.”
Yorktown, North Salem and Irvington also operate theaters within their communities.
To protect the building, the board appears ready to make the investment in the roof. Councilwoman Victoria Tipp said officials then need to determine the best way forward to ensure the theater’s long-term sustainability.
“We have to stay open-minded and understand how we can protect this asset and what structure is the most beneficial to run it, and I’m not sure that the current structure is what it would be,” Tipp said
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/