Real estate developer Duprey buys Concord Theatre

  • The Concord Theatre has been closed since 1994, but a proposal is out there to bring it back to life by the folks at the Capitol Center for the Arts as a new entertainment venue. Tim Goodwin / Monitor file

  • The projection room of the old Concord Theatre on South Main Street. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • The box office of the Concord Theatre sits in the entryway of the main entrance. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • The Concord Theatre on South Main Street, shown under construction last year, was recently purchased by real estate developer Steve Duprey. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Manchester-based architect Dennis Mires created this rendering, which envisions one concept for what the old Concord Theatre could look like if it’s overhauled. The historic theater is located at 18 S. Main St., between Endicott Furniture and OutFITters Thrift Store. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 1/21/2018 8:32:20 PM

Taxpayers weren’t the only ones rushing to take advantage of last year’s tax rules before the new year began. Developers got in on the action, too.

The Concord Theatre was sold Dec. 27 for $483,533 to New Concord Theatre LLC, a holding of Concord real estate developer Steve Duprey, according to the Merrimack County Registry of Deeds.

The purchase wasn’t a late Christmas present, but a necessary move to make the $5.2 million theater revitalization project eligible for certain tax credits, Duprey said – about $2.5 million worth, to be more precise.

About $1.6 million to $2 million of that amount could come from new market tax credits, a program that was developed to attract development to historically underserved projects and communities. The program can make the difference between viable projects and those that never get off the ground. Projects are eligible for a 39 percent tax credit on the total project cost over a seven-year period, according to the city’s website. The credits can be claimed either directly by the developer, or sold in order to raise equity.

Duprey said any area located in a census tract where residents make 80 percent or less of the statewide median income is viable for these credits.

But the census tract was updated last year, and the area between Hills Avenue and Centre Street is no longer eligible for new market tax credits. That created a deadline, Duprey said. He had to either acquire the building by Dec. 31 and have the project underway by July 1, the end of the current fiscal year, or potentially miss out on millions of tax credits.

There was also the question of whether the historic tax credit program would survive last year’s tax code rewrite. The tax credits were on the chopping block as the bill made its way through the House of Representatives; and like the new market tax credits, unless Duprey owned the building by end of year, the Concord Theatre project wouldn’t be eligible.

The historic tax credits made it to this year, but in December, it was “imperative to speed up owning the title,” Duprey said. Originally, he said, the owner of the building, Charles Aznive, was planning to sell the theater in the spring. Duprey was able to close the deal in about 25 days.

It’s not guaranteed that the project will receive the new market tax credits or the historic tax credit, but Duprey said he was confident. After all, several of his projects, including the 2 Pillsbury St. building, the Smile building at 49 S. Main St., the Love building at 45 S. Main St. and the Residence Inn by Marriott at 91 Hall St., were built using new market tax credits, so he’s familiar with the process.

Bringing the vision to life

The tax credits will allow the Capitol Center for the Arts, which will eventually purchase the property from Duprey, to make its vision of a midsized concert venue come to life, according to the Cap Center’s executive director, Nicki Clarke.

Originally, the Cap Center was looking to build a 100-person venue in the kitchen behind the Governor’s Hall. That plan has since expanded: Now, the Cap Center envisions the theater as a flexible, multi-purpose event venue. Set up for a standing-room-only crowd, it could fit 400, or by extending the retractable bleacher-like seats, it can sit 260. It has a bar upstairs, a lobby downstairs and a box office out front.

Should the project receive the full amount of tax credits, Clarke said the Cap Center will be looking to raise about $2 million in private donations. So far, they’ve brought in about $1.2 million of that goal through fundraising events.

That money isn’t just going to the revitalization of the Concord Theatre; Clarke said the capital campaign will also fund a new marquee, a ticketing system and a new heating system. But an additional venue will allow the Cap Center to book more niche events and club-like dance shows with a smaller audience while still booking bigger acts for the 1,300-seat main theater.

“We really have the chance to bring another level of nightlife to Concord,” Clarke said.

But, that’ll only happen if locals invested in the Cap Center step up, Clarke said.

“Obviously we’re really going after people who can make significant gifts, but we’re going to need a lot of people to step forward to help us,” she said. “We’re being really cautious; we’re optimistic, but not there yet.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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