Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, said that, with the financing picture finally taking shape, restoration work on the Colonial Theatre will begin “in the coming months.” (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
Tax credits assist in moving project forward just in time for building season
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — After a year of delays, financing for the $17 million refurbishment of the 103-year-old Colonial Theatre finally appears to be coming together.
The last piece of the funding puzzle involves federal tax credits.
The U.S. Treasury Department awarded $3.5 billion in New Market tax credits nationwide last month, allowing the Belknap Economic Development Council to push forward, Justin Slattery, the council's executive director, said Thursday.
“Belknap EDC is currently finalizing financing for the project including New Market tax credits with our funding partners and is looking forward to moving to the project’s construction phase,” he said Thursday.
Slattery didn't have an exact date for closing on financing or starting on construction.
Mayor Ed Engler said he is happy things are finally moving.
“I'm thrilled,” he said. “We're a year behind schedule. This is one of those things, where there were so many parts to that financing package, but this is great news, construction can begin the day after closing.”
Once work begins, it will take another year before the aging theater can be turned into a modern entertainment venue that will retain the ornate touches that give it character. The hope is that the project will attract more people, business and investment in a downtown area that needs help.
The economic development council is using a mix of state, federal, city and donor funds to bring the theater back to life.
The New Market tax credits are to account for $5.7 million of that funding. Community development entities sell the credits to investors to raise capital for projects in low-income rural communities.
The Colonial Theatre project, part of an effort to revitalize the downtown core, is also to include 14 market-rate apartments and four retail spaces. It was delayed after early design projections undershot the total cost of the intricate refurbishment.
The complicated nature of the financing also caused delays.
In addition to the New Market Tax Credits, financing will include $2.4 million in historic tax credits, a $4.2 million loan from the city and $1.5 million in donations.
The entrance to the Colonial Theatre still has the wallpaper and woodwork of an earlier era of American theaters. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
The Colonial Theatre awaits the next phase of renovation. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)