Proposal calls for replacing Shakespeare theater, building senior living and restaurant

A plan for Stratford’s 14-acre Shakespeare Theatre park overlooking the Housatonic River has been unveiled, and it includes tearing down the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre, building a new smaller theater with educational facility, building a senior living facility, and building a restaurant and catering facility.

Jack Piccolo of P&C Fence Company in Bridgeport is forming the plan with Richard Fredette, a former Stratford Town Councilman and current alternate member of the Board of Zoning Appeals and member of the Arts Commission. They are both Stratford residents.

Piccolo said he has private financing lined up for the estimated $35 million development and construction project. The name of the financing organization is being withheld until the town’s approval process is further along.

Negotiations are underway with CAPA of Columbus, Ohio a non-profit theater owner, operator and manager, one of whose clients is the Schubert Theater in New Haven, to operate a new 750-900 seat theater-in-the-round, according to Piccolo.

A 120-room facility for independent and assisted living and a waterfront fine dining restaurant and catering facility would be designed to generate profits to pay off a mortgage provided by the private financers.

Piccolo’s plan calls for both of those enterprises to pay rent to the town, which would eventually become owners of the properties when the mortgages are paid off.

The plan is “financially sound and sustainable,” Piccolo said in a meeting with local media on April 23.

Deed restrictions on the property require that no less than 20% of the property be preserved as open space and that “the entire property shall remain accessible to the general public for their enjoyment in perpetuity.”

The deed says also that the “Town shall make reasonable efforts to utilize the premises for public entertainment purposes…”

All of those requirements are met under his plan, according to Piccolo.

The public access would be provided with a three-mile long walkway around the property, and that would be connected with the town’s Greenway path that has started to grow.

Fredette said for 19 years he has been listening to complaints and proposals, but none of the proposals had “money drivers” to pay for a theater.

“This is fully funded,” Fredette said. “I look forward to it being prosperous and something people can be excited about and proud of.”
Piccolo said, “I am tired of seeing Stratford not succeed. Tired of seeing the frustration. This is a self-sustaining project that will keep the theater running for years on end.”

Rendering of proposed new theater  with education center that would replace current Shakespeare Theatre. Piccolo Associates.

Rendering of proposed new theater with education center that would replace current Shakespeare Theatre. Piccolo Associates.

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