A coalition of arts-based groups, community supporters and area business donors gathered at Universal Preservation Hall on Thursday to explore options for transforming the vintage 19th century building into a viable community and arts space.
The Washington Street venue, built in 1871, was spared from the wrecker’s ball in 1999 when local residents conducted fundraising efforts to save the building one week prior to the start of demolition. Extensive renovations followed, but stalled when the recession hit in 2008 and pledges evaporated, said Dorothy “Teddy” Foster, board president at UPH – the non-profit organization that owns the building.
UPH has teamed up with officials at Proctors in Schenectady to spearhead a feasibility study which will review the venue’s role in the competitive regional market, staffing requirements, budgets, analyze the best use for the space and fundraising options. The $32,000 study was funded by area business, development and arts groups and will be completed in January, when the groups invested in the project will better define their roles in the partnership and how to move the project forward.
One goal is to complete renovations of the hall – which would include installing sprinkler systems, elevators, and air conditioning and heating units – at an estimated cost of about $3 million. Proctors’ CEO Philip Morris, who oversees 1,700 annual events in the four performance spaces at the Schenectady venue, suggested the Saratoga Springs hall may best be suitable for concerts with acoustic instruments, dance performances, and art shows, as well as for community events such as a Farmers’ Market.
The building‘s main hall features a 45-foot tall ceiling, stained glass windows and a wraparound balcony and houses the worship space for the Universal Baptist Church on a lower level. When completed, the Hall will have a seat capacity for 800 people, with an additional 150 to 200 people who may use the Community Room.
The hall currently plays host to a variety of regional events and in 2010 staged a major show featuring Max Weinberg, drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, who performed with his big band.
Last November, a rock ‘n’ roll themed event was staged at the hall to honor David “Taylor” Miller, a Saratoga Springs High School Class of 2009 graduate who was killed in Afghanistan during a suicide bomb attack in June, 2010. The event was a fundraiser for “Taylor's Heroes,” a non-profit group which helps Saratoga area youth with free fitness and nutrition programs. Taylor’s mother, Leslie Miller, was at Thursday’s gathering. UPH will host a Rock of Ages Birthday Bash honoring Taylor on Nov. 10, the day prior to what would have been his 22nd birthday. Tickets for adults to the fundraiser are $75, or $65 if purchased before Nov. 2. Youth tickets are $45 for ages 18-29, and private lounge seating with wait-staff service is also available.
For more information about the event, go to: www.taylorsheroes.org
ON THE WIRE