New Fort Hill Performing Arts Center Theatre in Canandaigua Opens

Geneva, NY, United States / Finger Lakes Daily News Lucas Day January 10, 2020 03:32 pm

The Fort Hill Performing Arts Center’s Sands Constellation Theatre, a new $4.48 million 427-seat commercial theater, visual and performing arts center in Canandaigua opened Friday. The theater occupies the former Canandaigua Academy School auditorium, vacant since 1996 when segments of the school were renovated into affordable apartments for seniors.

Opening weekend festivities include performances by actors Michael Park and Nicole Hart; the Rochester Oratorio Society, Finger Lakes Opera and Rochester City Ballet on Saturday, January 11th; and the Collective Force Jazz Ensemble, the Finger Lakes Concert Band, the Bluegrass Trio, and the Diana Jacobs Band on Sunday afternoon.

Located at 20 Fort Hill Road, the theatre has a deep, versatile stage with overhead fly space, with both motorized and manual rigging, state-of-the-art lighting and sound system, video system and a sound shell for concert use. A 6×8 stage lift, big enough for a grand piano, allows access from the stage to the house floor and basement level for efficient handling of scenery and production equipment.

Other areas include dressing rooms, rehearsal space, box office, public concession area, and gallery space.

The theater rehabilitation was financed with $2 million in HCR subsidy through its Rural and Urban Community Investment Fund Program (CIF), and $1.3 million in Federal and State Historic Tax Credit equity provided by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Additional financing includes a Theater Equity Contribution of $1.5 million and private equity raised by the sponsor, Fort Hill Preservation.

The investment in the new theater dovetails with a recent $8.9 million renovation of two adjacent buildings with 57 affordable apartments for seniors. HCR provided $5.9 million in Multifamily Preservation Program funds for the housing renovation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation provided $1.57 million in Federal and State Historic Tax Credit equity.

State Senator Pam Helming said, “Fort Hill Performing Arts Center is a beautiful venue that will provide space for musical theatre productions, orchestra performances, visual arts exhibits and many other presentations and ceremonies. The facility will be a centerpiece for the arts in the Finger Lakes Region and will be enjoyed by both residents and tourists for years to come. Congratulations to Fort Hill on the completion of this amazing project.”

Jack Marren, Town of Victor Supervisor and Chairman, Ontario County Board of Supervisors, said, “I am so excited about the grand opening of the Fort Hill Sands Constellation Theater this coming weekend. The addition of this year-round performance venue to the Finger Lakes will benefit this region in a number of ways. Quality of life for residents, increased arts & entertainment to attract visitors, economic impacts on restaurants and hotels to mention a few. This endeavor should serve as a model of what public & private collaboration on projects is able to accomplish and I commend the FHPAC for the repurposing of the existing building that was once the Canandaigua Academy Auditorium.”

Gordon Estey, President of the Fort Hill Performing Arts Center (FHPAC) Board, said, “Fort Hill Performing Arts Center is a dream come true for many and will be the jewel in the crown for year-round entertainment in Canandaigua, the Chosen Spot.”

Joan Hoover, President, Conifer Realty, LLC, said, “Conifer is honored to have worked with our partners at Fort Hill Performing Arts Center, Conifer-LeChase Construction and HCR to provide such an important community development opportunity to the City of Canandaigua creating a truly magnificent performance space. We could not be prouder and more appreciative of all the talented men and women who made this a reality.”

Commissioner Visnauskas said, “The Sands Constellation Theatre moves the Finger Lakes Forward by offering a gorgeous venue for world-class visiting artists and a state-of-the-art stage for the region’s exciting and growing performing arts community. HCR is proud to have invested $2 million from our Rural and Urban Community Investment Fund, an innovative program designed to support projects like this that help grow and enrich communities.”

Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said, “The Fort Hill Apartments and Performing Arts Center project shows how underutilized buildings can be reimagined to provide much-needed housing, enhance quality of life, and preserve local heritage,” said “With the assistance of the Historic Tax Credit program, New York State is leading the nation in promoting sustainable neighborhoods while preserving the historic make-up of its cities and towns.”