By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — In its 185th year, the Bank of New Hampshire jump started the capital campaign to restore and reopen the Colonial Theatre, another of the city's most venerable and cherished institutions.
Calling the theater "an iconic part of our community," Mark Primeau, president and chief executive officer of the bank presented a check for $500,000 Wednesday toward the capital campaign, with the goal of raising $2 million before the year is out.
"I challenge the business community to step up," he said. "It's a wise investment."
Randy Eifert, chairman of the Belknap Economic Development Council, recalled that almost a year to the day ago the council and the city announced they had partnered to acquire and restore the theater. Since then, he said, the time, energy and talent of many individuals have brought the project to the brink of beginning the restoration of the building in January.
In particular, Eifert expressed thanks to Kevin Sullivan of Weeks Commercial Real Estate, who brokered the purchase without accepting a fee, John Giere of Wescott Law, who managed the legal spadework, Chris Kelly of Re/Max Bayside, who is managing the property and Bonnette, Page & Stone Corporation for preparing the theater for restoration.
Introducing Primeau, Rod Dyer of the Cultural Arts Center of the Lakes Region, said that the Bank of New Hampshire "has always stepped forward," noting its generous contributions to the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, Boy & Girls Club of the Lakes Region, Laconia High School, Laconia Public Library and LRGHealthcare.
"This is a significant day," Dyer remarked. "Onward and upward!"
He said the project is projected to have an immediate economic impact of $10,555,000 and increased spending of $2.2 million and spawn 70 new jobs, 47 of them in the construction industry paying $73,600 a year.
Mayor Ed Engler said that the generosity of the bank came as no surprise. He stressed that the bank is "its people and the role they have played in the life of our community," singling out the late John Goddard and Don Beane, both longtime directors of the bank, who he called "our neighbors, our friends."
The purchase, restoration and reopening of the theater," Engler said, "has touched a nerve in the city of Laconia and the Lakes Region. We still have a lot to do," he continued. "All signs are looking good. No red flags raised so far. But, we need every contribution imaginable from the community." He said that a public fundraising campaign will begin shortly after Labor Day.
Mark Primeau, president and chief executive officer of Bank of New Hampshire, right, and Barry Leonard, his executive vice president, set the pace for the capital campaign to raise $2 million for the restoration of the Colonial Theatre with a $500,000 contribution made under the marquee Wednesday. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)
There is now a great view from the upper right balcony box overlooking the main floor and stage area as the final pieces of steel joists were removed from the Colonial Theater last month. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)