November 21, 2008

Theater at Memorial Boulevard to cost $14M

Creating a community theater at Memorial Boulevard School will cost $14.3 million, according to a final report by architects who investigated the option for the past six months.
The plan calls for overhauling the historic theater to replace ancient, broken-down equipment, add rehearsal and storage space, update lighting and the sound system, replace the seats and much more.
The Simsbury-based Schoenhardt Architecture + Interior Design plan details the need for a new entranceway, a lobby and a host of changes to create a modern theater that could be used for music, plays and other events.
Mayor Art Ward said the architects, who have worked closely with city officials for months, did “a fine job.”
“I hope it comes to fruition. We’ve needed it for years,” said Ken Ferris, the former music director at Bristol Eastern High School.
City Councilor Craig Minor said the plan offers a beautiful way to reuse a valuable community resource.
But whether the city can come up with the money anytime soon remains unclear. The report itself projects a construction bid opening in March 2010.
The city has eyed the possibility of a theater at the 1922 school building for several years as a way to lure people downtown by providing a much-needed venue for everything from the Older Members Show to musicals by Bristol Theatre Arts.
The 900-seat theater “is in dire need of renovation if it is to serve the community in the future,” the report says. “As it is today, the theater is almost unusable as a performance venue.”
“Every theatrical system is either absent or in need of replacement,” the report, submitted Thursday, says.
The lobby and backstage areas are wholly inadequate, it says, “and the seating is in poor condition” and lacks the sight lines that people expect now.
Moreover, the report notes, the drapery that surrounds the stage is in “very poor shape” and likely poses a fire risk.
The plan features an addition to the rear of the existing stage that would blend with the school’s architecture.
On the north side, where the parking lot is located, the architects call for a new entrance and lobby, including restrooms, a ticket office and an office for the theater.
It doesn’t say anything about who should manage the theater if it is built.
Before the project can move ahead, it will need the backing of the City Council and the Board of Finance. There is no firm timetable when either will consider the request.
Schoenhardt, which got $72,900 to do the report, is a leader in working with the design of schools and theaters.
It designed the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, worked on the lobby of Hartford Stage, designed the Greater Hartford Classical Magnet School and worked on renovations at the Thomaston Opera House, the Bushnell Theater and the Newport Opera House in Newport, R.I.
Memorial Boulevard School is slated to close when the city finishes two new schools, perhaps in 2015. The city has made no plans for the future of the historic school on Memorial Boulevard, which served initially as the city’s sole high school.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Wondering said...

We know the State will take patr: how much will they contribute?

Anonymous said...

14M???? They could buy the press with that money.

Steve Collins said...

Actually, they might be able to buy the press for $14. But I'm sure the asking price is more like $1 million.

Anonymous said...

That's $14 million reasons NOT to continue with this silly proposal.

Anonymous said...

WOW 1M with 13 left to spare. I can only imagine the possibilities!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the school superintendent say it's cheaper to build new? Let's look at building a new theater.

Boomer said...


Part of the rationale to renovate the Boulevard auditorium was that it would still be used by the school and students, it would not be stand alone and require a separate staff, nor justify it existence financially, which would be difficult, and it would enhance downtown.
Thwe last reason is why the state might provide much of the funding for the renovation.

Anonymous said...

We're in a recession. The state has a huge deficit. Some of the largest corporations in America are going or have gobe belly up. How about a spending freeze on everything non-essential until the economy is in better shape? That include the theater, the new schools and other public works projects.

Anonymous said...

why know with all these new projects, wake up idiots at town hall bristol is broke so is the entire state.

Anonymous said...

bristol is broke so is the entire state.

November 24, 2008 4:58 AM

That may be the only way to break the union stranglehold on the Taxpayers .


Anonymous said...

If folks want this theater so much they should raise the money themselves - privately.

The City of Bristol can not afford this -- period.

Anonymous said...

Two New schools a downtown that has yet to be developed under Mayor Ward, now a theater?

Where is all this money coming from????????????

Dorothy said...


We have a theater, it just needs to be renovated and updated.

Ironically, there are those that oppose building new buildings, and those that oppose renovation.

Do you really want Bristol to stagnate?

This project would enhance the school, provide for alternative uses when if the school is eventually closed, has almost enough provisions for parking, would enhance downtown, meets the requirement of the land use, would provide opportunities for more entertainment in Bristol as well as attract people to Bristol.
Obviously it does not come for free, but would be a good investment.

Anonymous said...

November 25, 2008 6:54 AM

It seems that Bristol can't even support a movie theater . I find it difficult to believe it would make a theater of performing arts profitable . At this point in time , Bristol really can't afford to waste more taxpayer money .

TOTO said...


That is why it makes more sense to utilize the existing building. It will not take as much to make it self sufficient, and remember, the students benefit too.

The state will provide significant assistance and this part of the overall plan to develop Bristol's Downtown.