Don Chute, director of the Pittsfield Public Works Department, enters the now-closed Pittsfield Community Theatre in October. The Town Council on Tuesday heard a proposal from a group to reopen the theater. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

PITTSFIELD — Just weeks after considering a proposal to reopen the Pittsfield Community Theatre, the Town Council this week heard a pitch from another group looking to purchase and renovate the downtown property.

Ann Mathews, representing the newly formed Bijou Theatre and Enrichment Center, spoke to the council Tuesday to outline goals for the shuttered theater and expected costs for the extensive renovations that are needed.

The group hopes to purchase the town-owned theater and an adjacent vacant property to run a community center alongside the entertainment venue. Mathews said the group estimates that repairs will cost over $800,000. The intention is to raise the money through grants and fundraising efforts.

“The movies are just a portion of what we would like to do over there,” Mathews said. “We’d like to make it more of a community-type center, involving education in the arts and enriching people’s lives.”

Although the group has not yet formally filed as a nonprofit, it has an agreement with the organization that operates the Center Theatre in Dover-Foxcroft to serve as a fiscal sponsor. The Center Theatre may accept donations on behalf of BTEC.

Mathews outlined the group’s proposal to buy the theater, which would include an initial purchase price of just $2,000. That would include an agreement for the town to continue to pay $8,000 a year for the next three years to go toward the theater — an amount based on what the town has historically paid for maintenance on the building. The BTEC after three years would pay half the money back, so essentially the town would pay $24,000 and then BTEC would repay the town $12,000, in addition to the initial purchase price.


The theater closed in March 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The town at one point listed it for sale at $179,000 and then later lowered it to $149,900.

The Center Theatre is an ideal partner for the venture, Mathews said, as it is also run by a nonprofit that was started by local residents. Patrick Myers, the executive director of Centre Theatre, attended Tuesday’s meeting over Zoom and shared with the council how that theater was revived.

The theater had been closed for roughly 30 years when residents became concerned about the future of the historic building, located on East Main Street. Those kitchen table conversations eventually turned into a formal nonprofit, Myers said, which then purchased the theater and renovated it over several years.

“It was much like this, a group of concerned citizens around the kitchen table realized that the theater could very well be the next building to disappear from the downtown,” Myers said.

The proposal by BTEC is just the latest one to be presented to the council. William Clover and the Clover Improvement Group expressed interest to the council last month. Prior to that, the only interest in the building had been an offer last fall from Hammer Down Inc., a company owned by Michael and Tammy Smith, which the council declined.

Councilors expressed tentative support for the BTEC plan, but echoed past concerns about the feasibility of any group to finish the needed renovations and operate the theater.


“I appreciate the passion that people have about the theater and reopening that, but I struggle understanding the financial aspects of how they’re going to make that work,” Councilor Heather Donahue said. “I think that there needs to be a lot more planning involved and commitment, firm commitments from funders in order for the council to address that.”

In other business, the council approved a plan for a three-year town revaluation, to begin in 2024. Councilors unanimously approved a contract with RJD Appraisal, the same company that does the town’s assessing services, for $272,500 to complete the process.

The town’s certified ratio — the comparison of the town’s record of historical value compared to the market rate value — dropped last year to 92% and will decrease further this year to 81%, prompting the revaluation.

If that ratio drops below 70%, meaning that the historical value is less than 70% of the current market value, the state can withhold funding from the town.

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