Frates Creative Arts Center, U Frame We Frame and the Silver Screen Salon on Canal Street in Laconia have been asked to move out by Sept. 1 to allow renovation of the Colonial Theatre building. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Three businesses on Canal Street — Frates Creative Arts Center, U-Frame We Frame and the Silver Screen Salon — will be required to relocate by the restoration of the Colonial Theatre.
"We knew it was going to happen," said Larry Frates, who has operated artists workshop and dance studio on Canal Street for 32 years. "We want the project to work."
The three businesses occupy a triangular building attached to the auditorium that originally served as the entrance to the stage, as well as housed the manager's office, dressing rooms and storage space. The entrance, through which elephants and automobiles along with stage sets, sound equipment and other large items once passed, is essential to the operation of the theater.
The building committee, formed by the Belknap Economic Development Council , which owns the property, to assist with the restoration considered two alternatives to the original stage entrance: one from the Citizens Bank drive-up facility behind the theater on Beacon Street East and another through the Laconia Antiques Center abutting the theater on Main Street. However, the costs of acquiring, renovating and reconfiguring those properties proved prohibitive and the committee decided to restore the entrance on Canal Street
City Councilor David Bownes, who serves on the building committee, said that after meeting with the business owners representatives of the Belknap Economic Development Council agreed to provide them with assistance in moving their furnishings and inventory and relocating their operations. In addition, the council has forgiven payment of rent beginning on April 1. He said that the businesses have been asked to move by Sept. 1, but added "that date is not cast in stone."
"We've been here when there was nothing," said Frates, "and gone through the ups and downs with the redoing of Main Street and Canal Street. I think we've contributed something to keeping downtown alive." He said that he has already been contacted by a number of people with suggestions of a new location, but added that he has not begun searching in earnest. "We've always had a strong commitment to downtown," he said, "and we're not going away."
Jen Russo of the salon next door opened last August. She said that she made a significant investment from her own pocket in improving the space, including both electrical and plumbing work.
"I was hoping this would be my last stop," she said, "but I understand the situation and intend to stay positive. Russo said she had begun looking for new space downtown, but was finding others were getting to it ahead of her. "I've started looking outside of downtown."
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