, Derry, New Hampshire

December 13, 2012

Derry's Adams Building offers home to many

Adams Memorial Building is a downtown gem

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — It’s location, location, location for those who call the Adams Memorial Building home.

It’s also a place where they want to stay.

Several groups call the town-owned Adams Building home, including the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Greater Derry Arts Council, and Derry’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The town is now talking with those groups to make sure the building is being well used. That includes getting more people to stop by.

When benefactor Benjamin Adams left money to erect his namesake building in the early part of the 20th century, the plan was to make a downtown 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, sprinkler and new restrooms.

As part of the project, the opera house also received a refurbished balcony and restored theater-style seating.

But town officials are still working to keep the building as a viable part of the downtown and get more people in the door to use its 350-seat opera house.

All groups paying rent to the town for their space in the building are renewing their leases for another three years.

But often, the costs to manage the building outweigh the money coming in.

“Obviously, we want to stay there,” said Bill Parnell, president of the Chamber of Commerce board of directors. “We like the location.”

Parnell said more people are stopping by. The Chamber recently hired new executive director Stacey Bruzzese to lead the organization in a new direction.

The Chamber has added about 30 new members since the spring and the Adams Building is perfect for special events. It’s also a hub for the community for finding just the right information about the town.

“There is a lot of character in that building,” Bruzzese said. “We are proud of it when people come to see me. It’s a fantastic space for working.”

Upstairs at the Opera House, the all-volunteer arts council also sees the vision the Adams Building offers, but finds it often difficult to fill the seats on a regular basis.

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

Mike Gendron has been involved in the life of the Opera House for many years. He said the main drawback remains a lack of parking near the building.

“That’s the biggest hindrance to our success,” he said.

Arts council member Dave Nelson said the group is happy at the Adams Building, but wants to continue the discussion with the town over its care.

“We want to continue to work with the town to come up with some reasonable goals,” Nelson said.

Town Administrator John Anderson said everyone using the Adams Building is an integral part of its life and upkeep.

He said there may be money in the town’s budget in the next few years to support roof repairs and other projects.

“The town is continuing to make investments in the building,” he said.

Arts council volunteer Mark Beland said community members should take in a show or event at the Adams to see just much the downtown could benefit from what it offers.

“We want people to let people know this beautiful rose is right in their presence,” he said.

Parnell said the Chamber is very happy with its office space.

“We are definitely there to stay for the long haul,” he said.