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Derry

June 27, 2013

Derry Opera House gets new lease on life

DERRY — The Greater Derry Arts Council has signed on to continue its use of the Adams Memorial Building.

The all-volunteer council manages the Derry Opera House and signed a new three-year lease with the town.

The Adams Building is also home to the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and the Derry Housing Authority.

Those groups also renewed their leases with the town.

When benefactor Benjamin Adams left money for construction of the building in the early part of the 20th century, the plan was to make space for offices, public library and police, with room on the upper floor for a theater and stage.

A $1.5 million renovation project was completed in 2000, giving the Adams Building new heating and air conditioning systems, an elevator, sprinklers and new restrooms.

As part of the project, the Opera House also got upgrades.

Groups using the building have had discussions with the town about better ways to market the building and its programs.

The costs to manage the building often outweigh the money coming in. Especially with the Opera House, there has been much discussion about how to fill those seats and be profitable.

Town Councilor Neal Wetherbee said he would like to see more happen.

“It’s a key to doing things in the downtown,” he said, “bringing in foot traffic, a circular effect.”

Some infrastructure setbacks have kept customers — and performers — away, including not having enough space for larger bands to unload equipment prior to a show. Parking also remains an issue.

There are positives, but people coming for shows, Chamber events, and other events often say they can’t park close enough.

“I do think we need to revisit the parking issue,” Town Councilor Brad Benson said. “And how can we support them better so we have better facility usage.”

Town Administrator John Anderson said there are still logistics issues, but the Opera House did get improvements recently to windows and doors.

He said there may be money in future capital budgets to support roof repairs and other projects.

Councilors plan another workshop in the fall to continue talks on the Opera House and parking issues.

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