PMAC announces move to Islington Street site


PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth Music and Arts Center is moving forward with its plan to relocate, only now it plans to move to a new location.

PMAC announced in 2011 its intent to lease the second floor of the Frank Jones Fermentation building a block away from its home at 75 South Albany St. Instead, it will head to 973 Islington St., next to West End Studio Theatre, doubling its space.

"We have secured the building with a 10-year lease and an option to purchase," said PMAC's founding Executive Director Russ Grazier. "The lease will be signed in the next week or two, but most of the negotiations are done and we're just putting the final touches on it. And it's ready for us to build out exactly the way we want it."

The deal has been in the works since early this fall, when the building's owners approached PMAC about the space. Grazier said PMAC's rapid growth makes the move necessary.

"It made us think through a more accelerated timeline, and this building gives us all the opportunity of the other building, but allows us to move in 2013," he said.

PMAC will begin building in the spring with a target to move into the new space in July. PMAC contracted DeStefano Architects, led by Lisa DeStefano, to design the building.

The 7,200-square-foot space doubles PMAC's size, allowing for expansions of programs and rehearsal and performance space. The location will be fitted with two rehearsal rooms, up from one, a large multi-purpose area for rehearsals and student recitals, 12 private instruction studios for music and visual arts, offices and a "community foyer that welcomes all our students."

Grazier said the move will have an immediate effect on visual arts programming, which is in need of expansion.

"The ability to grow the visual program is a key motivator for the move," he said. "The one visual arts classroom we have in the current building is very small. So, now we will have two larger, dedicated visual art classrooms."

Grazier said PMAC has an excellent faculty that is ready to expand in order to offer more to the community.

"Another nice thing is we'll have exhibition space for students' artwork," he said.

The expanded space will allow PMAC to bring current satellite programming into its main facility. For example, the youth orchestra has had to meet elsewhere due to its size, he said.

"This will allow for a stronger sense of community from program to program," he said.

The new space allows for more students when, in the past, PMAC has been unable to serve all those interested, Grazier said. "At our current building, we're completely full during those hours and have to turn people away," he said.

The nonprofit plans to raise $1.9 million for the project, including the purchase of the building. Funds will be derived from various sources. The Community Development Finance Authority allowed PMAC to transfer its $500,000 tax credits to the new location. PMAC is still in the process of selling the credits. It is also writing grants and working with private donors.

"We've been running a capital campaign for a year; it's in the quiet phase," Grazier said.

He said PMAC will create 20 new arts-related jobs over the next five years. "Some are already being created in preparation," he said. "We have six new teachers joining us in the spring semester."

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