UPDATED: Originally posted at 6:45 a.m. Updated at 8:05 a.m. with quotes from Selectman Jason Smith
FRAMINGHAM – Framingham Selectmen and Amazing Things Arts Center reached a deal last night to keep the downtown venue open and and operating through mid-2018.
The vote was 4-1 by Framingham Selectmen to give Amazing Things a six-month contract extension, to figure out how to pay a $90,000 ballon payment to the Town of Framingham, soon-to-be the City of Framingham, due in 2017, as part of their original lease.
Jason Smith was the lone vote against.
The arts center, housed in a former Framingham fire station in downtown Framingham, has a 50-year lease through December 2057.
A balloon payment of more than $90,000 was due in December 2017, that threatened the future of the venue, but last night Selectmen reached an agreement to keep the venue open and operating through June 30, 2018. Selectmen held a closed door meeting before its regularly scheduled meeting last night and discussed this issue.
“This is a big win for the community,” said Framingham Selectmen Chair Cheryl Tully Stoll, after last night’s meeting.
Tull Stoll said Selectmen accepted a $1,000 payment from Amazing Things, which also agreed to identify an “acceptable payment plan” with the new mayor of the City of Framingham by June 30, 2018, so “not to default on their lease.”
“I’m a huge supporter of theirs and they’ve done a great job for downtown and for other programs,” said Smith, who said he voted against the 6-month contract “because we have no business plan in place that identified how they were going to bring in the $90,000 owed.”
Smith told Source Wednesday morning “I believe a business plan should have been brought to our attention before we just gave them a six-month” lease.
Yvonne Spicer was elected mayor earlier this month, and officially will be sworn in on January 1, 2018. The Framingham Board of Selectmen will cease to exist on December 31.
Come 2018, Spicer, and possibly the new 11-member City of Framingham City Council, will need to hammer out a deal with the Center for payment, so it can remain open.
“We’ve been trying to engage the Town for quite awhile on how to address this large nut. I believe Amazing Things has contributed a lot to the town and to downtown in particular, and we hope the City will take that into account. We’re looking forward to working with the new leadership to find an appropriate solution,” said Amazing Things Executive Director Ellen Sturgis to Framingham Source last night.
Sturgis said the total owed by Amazing Things “seems to be slightly in question, but we showed it as $92,500 which includes $7,000 of kitchen equipment we don’t want that the Town left in the building.”
Town Meeting authorized a 50-year lease of the Hollis Street Fire Station to Amazing Things Arts Center in May 2007.
Sturgis, who was hired in April 2015, is the third director of the Center, that was founded in 2005.
Amazing Things is a live music venue, with concerts and theatre performances. It also hosts two art galleries.
When the Town of Framingham evicted the tenants at the Danforth Building in 2016, Amazing Things took in the Framingham Artists Guild.