They did it, the Smithtown Performing Arts Council saved its 89-year-old historic Main Street theatre, purchasing the building from the nonprofit’s landlord for $1.45 million.
The next step: Raising the cash to restore it.
The arts council’s purchase and preservation efforts began last fall when the theatre’s former owner, Ken Washington, decided to sell the building.
“Nine months ago today on Sept 8, I stood here … in a plea to the community, to our patrons, to grant writers and to grant organizations to try and save this theater from disappearing forever,” arts council President Michael Mucciolo said at a press conference Wednesday. “It gives me great pleasure to say that we have in fact closed and purchased the building. It is now owned by the not-for-profit.”
Mucciolo thanked the theatre’s patrons who donated to the cause and supported programing, as well as local elected officials and community leaders, many of whom joined him on stage to unveil the council’s plans to renovate the theatre, a rather necessary procedure for the aging structure.
“The journey isn’t over yet,” Mucciolo said. “This building, although converted into a performing and live arts space for entertainment almost 20 years ago, was never restored. And at this point, much of what exists here hasn’t been touched since the 1970s — if at all.
“What I’m asking for today really is continued support from the community, from our patrons, from our elected officials, to restore this building,” he added. “It’s going to take a lot of work, but it is worth saving,. It has features that are one of a kind. It has the same interior designers from the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Centre. You’re not going to find another place like it. It deserves to be preserved, not only because of the history it represents, but also because of what it does for the community.”
PAC seeking donations
The arts council hopes to begin renovations in about six months, according to council Vice President Keith Blum, beginning with much needed exterior work.
“The marque is our number one focus with the front,” Blum said. “We’re doing all the stained glass windows in the front and the doors. All that brickwork all needs to be cleaned, repointed and restored. So once we hit that front, then we’re going to move to the sides and the rear of the exterior and get this thing sealed up.”
“That’s the light we want to bring back to Main Street,” Mucciolo said of the marque.
Before that light can turn back on, however, the arts council is seeking donations. While patrons can still donate to the board’s GoFundMe page, and certainly help by attending arts council programming, Mucciolo said skills and supplies are just as valuable as money.
The council president called on any local contractors, electricians and other laborers, as well as supply companies, to please donate their time or materials to the theatre.
With this assistance, Mucciolo said the theatre’s main stage and children’s and educational program may continue. He teased that the theatre will soon expand its offerings with live music performances and comedy events, thanks to a partnership with Governor’s Comedy Club. More programming, he said, will help the entire business district thrive.
“We want to be the crown jewel in the redevelopment of this downtown space for Smithtown,” Mucciolo said. “There’s no reason you should have to go to Patchogue to have a downtown Main Street experience if you live in Commack or Hauppauge. You should be able to come here.”
Town seeking government funds
On Wednesday, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim described the theatre as the “anchor” of revitalization in downtown Smithtown.
“As goes this theater goes the revitalization of the Smithtown business district,” he said. “And we are very positive that this will ultimately be a thriving business district, as it should be.”
To help with façade renovations for the theatre, Wehrheim said the town could potentially tap into a second allotment of federal COVID-19 relief funds. The supervisor said the town expects to receive $5.1 million this August.