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Wall Street Theater expects first show on April Fools Day

NORWALK, Conn. – The Wall Street Theater is on track to offer its first show on April 1, Suzanne Cahill said Tuesday, as workers bustled around her.

The stage will be installed by the end of this month and the interior work should be completed by March 17, said Cahill, Wall Street Theater president. Sounds and lights will be installed in the last two weeks of February.

That is, indeed, behind schedule – developer Frank Farricker had originally predicted that the theater would be open a year ago, then amended it to November.

Farricker, in September, attributed the delay to unforeseen issues.

“We made some changes to the design,” Farricker said. “We had a slow down for three months because we discovered that there were areas in the building that required structural steel, that we were hoping it wouldn’t be the case, but were. So, our engineers had to redesign the structural components of the building.”

The theater was originally opened in 1915 and is a National Historic Landmark, having been called, at various times, The Regent, The Norwalk Theater, The Globe Theater and The Roxy.

Underground conduit work on Sept. 7 in the Wall Street Theater.

Underground conduit work on Sept. 7 in the Wall Street Theater.

The Wall Street Theater will literally be state of the art, while retaining an old theater feel because the wiring – 360 conduits – are underground, or up through the walls, Farricker said.

“It’s like a small production facility,” Farricker said. “…Every show can be recorded. There are fixed and movable camera positions throughout the house.”

Because the Wall Street Theater is a nonprofit, the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) is providing it with gigabyte of Internet access, and, “We can stream anything that is recorded here, boom, boom, boom.  If there is an event, stream it to another location we can do it instantaneously,” he said.

In addition, there will be “plug and play” television production equipment in the parking lot, he said.

“If you wanted to have a presidential debate here we would be equipped for that,” Farricker said. “If channel 12 wanted to have something here, they literally don’t have to do anything they could download our feed, up the street.”

Two Norwalk-based companies are involved in the rehab, Theater Projects and Jaffe Holden, he said, describing them both as number one in the country for what they do.

The theater’s vintage windows were being rehabbed, he said, and the gaps in the façade filled in with authentic 100-year-old bricks, matching what’s there, he said.

Cahill, on Tuesday, said workers need to finish the floor. It will be painted concrete, she said. The theater will offer off-Broadway productions, dance and opera, and “livestream them anywhere in the world.”

Billy Blanks Jr., artistic director for the Wall Street Theater.

Billy Blanks Jr., artistic director for the Wall Street Theater. (Contributed photo)

The theater recently hired Billy Blanks Jr. as its artistic director. Blanks has had roles “as a dancer in music videos with Paula Abdul, Madonna, Crystal Method, Quincy Jones, and Babyface,” a press release said.

“His credits also include TV appearances on American Dreams with Alicia Keys, The Practice, Sister Sister, Kids Incorporated, Homeboys From Outer Space, My Cousin Skeeter, and The Tonight Show. Billy starred as Tyrone Jackson in the US and Europe touring company of the Broadway musical Fame. Billy went on to direct and choreograph the WeSparkle Take II Celebrity Concert with Tom Hanks, Jason Alexander, Brian Cranston, Joey Lawrence, Britney Spears, Michael Chiklis, Hal Sparks, the cast of Will & Grace, and more. As well, Billy has his own television show in development with the ‘Z Living Network,’” the release said.

The theater is partially funded by a $1.5 million state grant; Connecticut Light & Power bought the Wall Street Theater’s state historic tax credits in exchange for $1.81 million.

There’s also a $1,666,000 HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Section 108 loan, which the city would have to pay if the theater defaulted. This allows the theater to pay off its construction loan from Patriot Bank; payments will be made to the city over 20 years, with the building as collateral.

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Frank Farricker surveys work at the Wall Street Theater, on Sept. 7.

Frank Farricker surveys work at the Wall Street Theater, on Sept. 7.

12 comments

Paul Lanning February 9, 2017 at 1:41 pm

If I understand this correctly, millions of dollars have been spent to create a state-of-the-art facility that will be used for amateur performances and local/regional workshops..and Norwalk has no plan to come up with the $1,666,000 it owes.

Bill Nightingale Jr February 10, 2017 at 10:09 am

I can pretty much assure you the city will be paying that $1.666mm HUD loan.

There is no significant equity investor in this project. All government grants, tax credits and HUD loans…aka funny money to government but real liabilities for taxpayers.

Sadly, like so many other Redevelopment Agency sponsored projects in Norwalk where government grants, tax abatements or other subsidies push the real costs to taxpayers.

Paul Lanning February 10, 2017 at 4:49 pm

I’m wondering who will gain from this. With no business plan or strategy, the city blindly invests in construction of a lavish 700-capacity entertainment venue–with no one on tap to book it/market it/operate it, and Norwalk taxpayers ultimately foot the bill.

Mitch Palais February 10, 2017 at 10:11 pm

For the naysayers- this is a world class team. I’ve had the pleasure to work with some of them.

Look at the teams individual accomplishments and prior projects.

Best of luck to all.

Break a leg.

Dawn February 11, 2017 at 11:12 am

What about the parking. 700 seat theatre. That’s a lot of cars. So much for attending a family event at the library on the weekend. I’ll be parking a mike away.

Paul Lanning February 11, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Mitch Palais–To repay the loan, the theater needs to be filled with paying customers on an ongoing basis. The project’s principals seem to lack a plan to achieve this.

Non partisan February 11, 2017 at 6:07 pm

@Paul

I’m usually the first in line to express my views when I think the city is acting fiscally irresponsibly. If the owner defaults the city would become the proud owner of a 5mm plus state if the art facility for only 1.6 mm. With the shortage of similar facilities in the Tristate region it could be sold within a very short period of time. If the project succeeds it could be a very good thing for this area of town and the city in general.

Claire Schoen February 12, 2017 at 5:32 pm

Omg enough with the negative attitudes. This project has the potential to revitalize the Wall Street area and bring some great performances and events to Norwalk.
I’m very excited to see this open.
How about we all buy tickets for the first show on April 1?

Paul Lanning February 12, 2017 at 7:01 pm

It’s a potential cornerstone/anchor for the Wall St. neighborhood. But somebody has to schedule and promote an ongoing performance schedule that will draw paying customers! There isn’t a shortage of local venues..there’s the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, the Palace in Stamford, and FTC in Fairfield, all of which will provide stiff competition

Bill Nightingale Jr February 13, 2017 at 9:26 am

Non partisan:

Patriot National Bank provided a $5.2 million loan to finance the construction of the Wall Street Theater. I don’t know the arrangement between them and HUD but I’d be pretty surprised if it is as simple as Norwalk becoming the proud owner of a $5mm theater if they default on the $1.6mm HUD loan. Patriot Bank obviously would not like that. Unless of course the City of Norwalk is on the hook to them also. Anyway, $6.8mm of debt for this project. That is a heck of a lot of debt. And no real equity sponsor. Norwalk is effectively guaranteeing the $1.6mm HUD portion. We shall see what other liabilities lurk.

Maybe we should have just had a referendum to see if city residents wanted to outright fund the theater development and if so financed it with the capital budget. Would have been far more transparent.

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