Main Streets Arts clears way for expansion
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | October 09,2012
Demolition crews tore down the dilapidated 1800s building at 33 Main St. in Saxtons River on Monday morning, clearing the way for the expansion at Main Street Arts next door.
SAXTONS RIVER — Demolition crews took down a dilapidated building on Main Street on Monday morning, clearing the way for the expansion project at Main Street Arts.
The “Leaning Tower of Pizza,” as the building was dubbed, a reference to a prior life as a pizza joint, had over the years housed a laundromat, an ice cream parlor, a shoe store and dry goods store before it fell on hard times, said Margo Ghia, managing director of Main Street Arts.
The demolition is one of the first visible steps of a $875,000 project that will create a new accessible entrance to the community arts organization, build an elevator to its second floor performance space and also build handicapped-accessible bathrooms.
The expansion will also create garden space, she said, and a little outdoor theater space. A new lobby and gallery space will also be created.
“I had multiple emotions when I looked at demolition,” said Ghia. “That building has been a long contributing part of the community. It was a very central part of the village. But it is exciting, a new history is being written.”
Ghia said that $675,000 has already been raised toward the total cost of the project, with the majority of that funding coming from a $300,000 grant from the Vermont Community Development program.
“We hope construction will start in 2013, and we’re hoping that by the end of the year our addition will be open to the public, and it will coincide with our 25th anniversary in 2013,” she said Monday.
The demolished building, which was only 11 feet away from the Main Street Arts building, was declared unsafe in 2010, but squatters had continued to live there.
Expanding the building and creating handicapped accessibility has been a long-term goal, something that several different boards of directors have been working on.
“The addition will be stunning and add to the beauty of Saxtons River’s Main Street,” Ghia said.
Ghia said because there was a dry cleaners at the site at one point, it is considered a brownfield site and extra cleanup measures have to be taken.
Main Street Arts was founded 24 years ago as a nonprofit arts center by a group of local people, and the arts organization started using the former Odd Fellows Hall. Ghia said that the 1850s building was remarkably unchanged over the years.
She said Main Street Arts had investigated rehabilitating the demolished building, and had consulted with preservation groups, but she said rehabilitation didn’t make sense.
Main Street Arts attracts people from southeastern Vermont and southwest New Hampshire, Ghia said. Last weekend’s class, “the art and science of identifying rocks,” is an example of the broad offerings, she said. Main Street Arts also offers community performances, concert space and arts classes.
The organization is growing, it had 10,000 visits to its building last year, Ghia said, to attend classes or performances.
Ghia said the group was about to put out a request for proposals from area architects to do the final design for the project.
The Jelly Bean Tree, a local crafts cooperative, will continue to be located in the storefront of the Main Street Arts building, she said.