Westfield approves $300,000 for downtown theater project

The Westfield City Council this week voted to provide $300,000 to help pay for construction of a new theater downtown.

Main Street Productions plans to build the 6,800-square-foot theater at 220 N. Union Street, moving the Westfield Playhouse from its current theater on State Road 32 in Eagletown to downtown.

The land for the project was donated to Main Street Productions by the Westfield Economic Development Foundation, which will own the land.

Monday night, the city council voted 5-2 to approve the $300,000 in construction funding. The money would come from the city’s general fund should the appropriation be approved at the next council meeting.

The funding is contingent on five conditions:

  • the funds must be spent only on construction of the playhouse;
  • funds won’t be available until a construction agreement between the economic development foundation and builder Showcase Homes is executed;
  • Execution of a memorandum of understanding between the economic development foundation, the theater group, the Westfield Downtown Merchants Association and the Estridge Foundation;
  • The execution of a ground lease from the city to the economic development foundation;
  • The execution of an agreeable master lease from the economic development foundation to the Westfield Playhouse.

During the meeting, there were some concerns from councilors Joe Edwards and Cindy Spoljaric about the spending, and both voted against the resolution authorizing the grant.

Councilor Jim Ake, who introduced and explained the grant, told members the Playhouse will make $1,000 monthly payments for 25 years (totaling $300,000) to the economic development foundation as part of a lease agreement.

Edwards made a unsuccessful motion to table the resolution until a later meeting when various agreements could be ready.

Constructing the building is expected to cost $850,000. The Estridge Family Foundation, an affiliate of Estridge Cos., has pledged up to $400,000 to the project.

The Westfield Playhouse has operated out of an old church in Eagletown since Main Street Productions purchased it in 1996. It seats about 50 people and does not have indoor plumbing.

The new theater will seat 160.

Ake said the theater will be a benefit to the city’s downtown economic development.

“Part of being a city is not taking away from a city but giving back … and creating an atmosphere where people have a cultural experience,” he said.

The city council will have the chance to review and approve the master lease agreement between the economic development foundation and the playhouse before the funds are appropriated.

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