Members of the Jaffrey community, state and federal officials, and board members of the Park Theatre gathered in Jaffrey Tuesday to officially break ground on a new $4.26 million cultural arts center and theatre. In September, the theatre finalized financing of the project using a $2 million United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) Community Facilities Program loan.
"It is heartening to see the dedication, hard work, and persistance the people of the Monadnock region and the members of the Park Theatre Board of Trustees have displayed ensuring this community has a world-class cultural arts center," said USDA RD Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady. "USDA seeks opportunities to support non-profit cultural venues in local communities, knowing that these investments in the community produce artistic, social and economic vitality."
"The project is now set to take an important step," said Park Theatre Board Chair Caroline Hollister. "Having the USDA-RD loan approved means that it is time to demolish the existing structure and prepare the site for re-construction."
Tuesday's groundbreaking and demolition marked the official start of construction of a nearly 12,000 square foot community cultural and education center. The Park Theatre will have nearly 400 seats and will be open to area schools, cultural and educational organizations, and towns seeking performance space or large meeting space. The new facility will give rural residents the ability to enjoy affordable world-class entertainment without traveling to a larger urban center.
Brady noted that in addition to the USDA RD loan, the community raised more than $1.5 million in private and corporate gifts and secured $500,000 in tax credits from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority. An effort by the Park Theatre Board of Trustees to raise $100,000 last June enabled the theatre to take advantage of the tax credits.
Brady said the Vermont and New Hampshire USDA RD office targets its Community Facilities Program grant and loan funding to projects that provide cultural resources to rural communities. Since 2008, when the program was reauthorized in the last Farm Bill, USDA-RD has used its Communities Facilities Program to fund more than $3.2 million worth of cultural projects aimed at envigorating the artistic, social and economic underpinnings of New Hampshire and Vermont towns. USDA grants and loans have been used to renovate existing theatres, buy digital projection equipment, and rebuild historic, cultural venues such as the Park Theatre.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted that the Park Theatre project is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy. He said that's just one reason why Congress must pass a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.
USDA RD administers and manages housing, business, and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. For more information on USDA RD or the Community Facilities Program visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/nh-vtHome.html or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000 in Vermont and (603) 223-6035 in New Hampshire.