Selectmen approve Community Theater license, lease agreement

Fairfield Community Theater on the corner of Post and Unquowa Roads Fairfield, Conn. on October 9, 2012.

Fairfield Community Theater on the corner of Post and Unquowa Roads Fairfield, Conn. on October 9, 2012.

Cathy Zuraw / Cathy Zuraw

fauFAIRFIELD — The Community Theater on Post Road, now the Sacred Heart University Community Theater, is expecting an opening next summer.

But that’s not before it goes through several town bodies for lease and land-use approval.

According to a license and access agreement, three activities would be permitted on the property: creation of a garden area, paving stones inscribed with the names of donors on the sidewalk and the installation of outdoor lighting fixtures.

“All the work that’s done has to be done with applicable zoning and building department permits,” Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said at the Wednesday meeting.

The initial lease term would be for 20 years, followed by three successive 10-year options.

The 50-year agreement, Ken Kleban, president of the eponymous company, said, was to provide a benefactor garden to “pay tribute to those who had helped in the process.”

A member of the public asked if the patio, currently leased by the Old Post Tavern, would be modified or enlarged.

“There is no plan to increase the footprint of the patio at the Old Post Tavern,” Kleban said, adding that any changes would require Town Plan and Zoning Commission approval.

Patrick Tennaro, owner of the Old Post Tavern, said he had reached an agreement with Kleban regarding the patio space. “I’m very happy to work with the Klebans in making the corner more beautiful.”

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the lease agreement.

The Community Theater, closed for the past eight years, is currently being acquired by Kleban Properties for an estimated sum of $3.85 million.

According to Kleban, the theater is in need of what would amount to at least $3 million in renovations to bring the buidling to code and with replacement of key internal structures. The company president is hoping to raise $1 million through community funding while the rest is provided through loan capital and investor equity.

Sacred Heart University, last week, announced they would be signing a 10-year lease with the company to turn it into a venue for lectures, author talks, unique films and other performances open to the entire community.

Last month, Kleban proposed full and partial tax abatements from the town for the next decade.

A full tax abatement would come by assessing the theater’s building value at $0 for the next four years followed by a partial tax abatement for the next six years.

According to the town’s tax assessor, the 10-year shortfall in tax revenue would amount to $339,922. After the tax abatements are concluded, the town could expect almost $165,000 in tax revenue per year.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the request, which also requires Representative Town Meeting approval.

Kleban has also requested 20 parking spaces within the Sherman Green parking lot and support from the town’s Office of Economic Development for signage and regulatory approvals.

Property records show that Norman Pollack bought the 1410 Post road locale in 1976 and then transferred to David Pollack in 2002. A 2017 valuation puts the property’s appraised value at $2.6 million.

The Community Theater was first inaugurated in 1920 and the full-scale renovation will provide the theater with as many as 400 seats next year.

The lease agreement now heads to the RTM for review and consideration at their June 24 meeting.