FPOH PURCHASES GALLISON HOUSE PROPERTY
The Friends of the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House (FPOH) – a not-for-profit membership organization – purchased a property on US Route 2 to improve the flow of traffic for the Town Hall Opera House, which is owned by the Town of Plainfield. As a result of its action, the FPOH hopes a plan for an adequate-sized, drive-through parking lot for the Town Hall Opera House can become a reality. “When the Plainfield selectboard negotiated an agreement to purchase the property in November, 2017, we supported it whole-heartedly” reports Keith Swann, president of the organization. “In fact, we suspended our efforts to raise funds to build a back-stage addition to help the Town with the purchase.” “When that fell through”, he added, “we decided to pursue it on our own.” The acquisition of the Gallison property, which is next to a small municipal lot across US Rt. 2 from the Town Hall Opera House, was identified by Town officials several years ago as the best way to reduce traffic congestion caused by events there: instead of the narrow, single-entrance lot, the additional property provides ample room for a through driveway, as well as a substantial increase in the amount of parking space.
The Plainfield Town Plan envisions the expanded use of its historic Town Hall Opera House as an economic development strategy for the community. Extensive repair and renovation work done between 2012 and 2017 – including the elimination of the offices formerly occupied by the Town Clerk and the installation of a warming kitchen – has made this historic theater much more functional as a performance venue and community space. This work was funded by grants from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Division for Historic Preservation, the Vermont Arts Council, and the Preservation Trust of Vermont, in addition to private donations and Town funds. With help from a VTrans Bicycle/Pedestrian grant, the town is building a sidewalk connecting lower Plainfield village to a marked pedestrian crossing in front of the Hall on US Rt. 2, slated for construction in 2019 or 2020. Once that is finished, the lack of a safe drop-off/pick-up area will be the only issue faced by theater-goers at the Town Hall Opera House (which has a seating capacity of 240). The Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission has developed preliminary plans for the Town that show how, with the Gallison property, this can be accomplished.
The Friends of the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House, which has managed the facility on behalf of the Town since July, 2017, is confident that these off-site improvements, when they are completed, will significantly increase the attraction of the Hall to prospective renters, in particular for larger, more extended performances. This, in turn, will lead to even greater numbers of people visiting Plainfield to attend events at the Hall. Attendance at events there topped 4,000 last year, with 140 people being the largest audience. “Our goal is a ‘full house’ without traffic snarls and parking nightmares”, says Swann, who sees the purchase of this property as the first step in providing the infrastructure needed to host events of all sizes there safely and smoothly. “We’ve witnessed all kinds of traffic safety issues on Route 2 since we’ve been managing the Hall, and we want to avoid them going forward”, he explains.
According to Tom Blachly, the organization’s treasurer, “the seller’s terms for the property were, in our opinion, extremely generous. The Friends of the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House was able to purchase the property for a $2,500 cash down payment (plus closing costs) and an owner-financed mortgage of $37,500”. David Strong, secretary of the group, added: “We would like to express our thanks to Lynn Gallison and Annette Fitzgerald for the consideration they have shown our organization and the public in agreeing to these terms. And we are grateful to the citizens of Plainfield who urged us to do what we could to prevent the loss of this property for the Town Hall Opera House. We look forward to working with the select board and the community to make this property available for public use.”
The down payment on the property was made possible by donations given to the “Friends” from scores of people who contributed to a fund drive for a better parking facility launched by the FPOH at the beginning of the year. The organization is now appealing to the greater Plainfield community, and to patrons and supporters of the Town Hall Opera House, to contribute to a $50,000 “Full House Fund”; the amount the Friends of the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House estimate is needed to pay off its mortgage on the property and get preliminary site work done on the new parking area.
The Friends of the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. All contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. “Please give the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House the hand it needs to be a winner when it comes to the traffic management needs of its audiences,” urges Naomi Flanders, a member of the board.
Contributions can be made out to “Friends of the Plainfield Opera House” and mailed to P.O. Box 120, Plainfield, VT 05667. For more information go to http://www.plainfieldoperahousevt.org or call Keith Swann at 224-6858.