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WEST HAVEN, Dec. 13, 2016 — The city’s long-planned arts center has seen a flurry of activity during the past year.
First, in April, the board of directors of the West Haven Center for the Arts hired a respected consultant to direct the center’s development.
Then, just last month, the board hired a longtime city architect to design the building’s interior.
Board Chairwoman Susan McCarthy said Catherine Bradshaw, executive consultant of Cadence Consulting LLC of Guilford, was tapped to orchestrate the ongoing fundraising and renovation efforts to complete the center’s future home at 304 Center St.
Bradshaw is charged with overseeing the project to convert the former Masonic Temple, which was bought in 2007 from Annawon Lodge 115 with a $650,000 state grant, into a first-class cultural arts center.
Board member Joseph A. Riccio Jr., the city’s commissioner of planning and development, said architect William Sapienza, owner of Sapienza Architects LLC at 420 Campbell Ave., was selected to draw up fresh plans for the project, which now calls for refurbishing the first floor of the two-story building instead of both floors.
Riccio said the scaled-back project will reduce construction costs in the near term and will allow the center to open sooner. He said a finished first floor will also provide a tangible scheme for the course of the project and will benefit a fundraising campaign for the second-floor phase of the center.
The interior renovations of the original design phase were sketched by New Haven-based Turner Brooks Architects in 2012. Those plans have been scrapped in favor of new plans that will better represent the vision of the five-member board and Mayor Edward M. O’Brien, McCarthy said.
Sapienza, who was hired for $20,000, is expected to deliver his plans to the board and O’Brien over the winter.
In addition to McCarthy and Riccio, the board includes West Haven Council on the Arts member Paul Scanlon, Hamden Hall drama teacher Karl Gasteyer, former executive director of the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport, and prominent downtown attorney Vincent R. “Skip” Falcone.
“Catherine is reviewing the plans with the board and the city on a regular basis to monitor progress on deliverables and to determine whether additional resources and time are needed to achieve project goals,” said McCarthy, a senior marketing director at a biopharmaceutical company in Westchester County, New York.
Bradshaw, who is paid a monthly stipend based on hours devoted to the project, has a wealth of experience in developing nonprofit organizations and has assisted numerous arts organizations in developing strategic plans, including the Elm Shakespeare Co. in New Haven, the Ivoryton Playhouse and the Klein.
Bradshaw’s contract, however, stipulates that “the total fees for the project will not exceed $31,500 unless the scope of service is renegotiated” between the board and her.
To pay Bradshaw and Sapienza, the board is using money from a $500,000 gift the city received from Yale University in April 2009 to help support the multimillion-dollar arts center project. The city is the board’s fiduciary partner.
Bradshaw is working with the board and the city to enhance the organizational structure required to operate the center. She is also providing professional support for fundraising and strategic planning for the center’s development, McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the board is primarily focused on securing funding for the center, including grant money for interior improvements.
O’Brien said the center will complement West Haven’s 3-year-old Metro-North Railroad commuter station and The Haven proposed upscale outlet mall as destinations that drive economic development for the downtown business district.
“This arts and entertainment center will serve as a catalyst for economic growth in the center of West Haven,” O’Brien said. “I am confident that under the direction of Catherine Bradshaw and the board of directors, this highly anticipated project will finally see the light of day.”
The center has undergone a host of upgrades in recent years.
In 2012, thanks to funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, crews from L&M Construction Co. and Mercury Solar Systems, both of Port Chester, New York, installed new windows and an energy-efficient metal roof with skylights and solar panels at the 15,022-square-foot building.
Other completed improvements include repair and facade work to preserve the architectural integrity of the 104-year-old building, along with new ionic columns and doors, which were done by Kronenberger & Sons Restoration Inc. The Middletown contractor specializes in the restoration, preservation and adaptive reuse of period structures.
The center is being financed as a fiscal development project with more than $200,000 worth of Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The project has also received $550,000 from the state Bond Commission, $371,000 from the U.S. Energy Department, $40,000 from the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Offices of Culture and Tourism, and $20,000 from the Connecticut Main Street Center.
— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator