CLAREMONT — Noting that the building has stood vacant since 1993, Economic Development Director Nancy Merrill presented the city council with a plan to transfer it to the Community Development Authority. The council agreed, selling the building for $1 to the CDA.
The West Claremont Center for Music and Art will apply for a Community Development Block Grant to turn the building into a music and art center. The CDBG grant, up to $500,000 is available through the state Community Development Finance Authority. The grant requires the project benefit low- and moderate-income persons.
If the grant is approved, it will cover reconstruction at 56 Opera House Square, including utilities, the roof and windows, performance space, practice rooms and studios. The building has about 6,000 square feet of usable space.
The project aligns with the city’s goals to develop the downtown into an economically vibrant center. It also complements the existing cultural and historic resources.
Merrill said moving the building to the CDA has come up several times over the years. “Return on investment is tough,” she said. “Another method needs to occur to get somebody in that building and make it work again.”
Merrill said the music and art group was also approved for a loan, which would help rehabilitate the building.
Mayor Charlene Lovett asked who would own the building.
Merrill explained that the city still owns it and would be the lead agent on the grant application, but the CDA would be the sub-recipient and will pay taxes on the property.
“The very idea of a music school right next to the opera house,” said Merrill. “I don’t know how you get any better than that.”