Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Council OKs Stratford Connecticut Shakespeare Theater Plan

STRATFORD — A Manhattan-based developer has been selected by the town to revive the Shakespeare theater, with the goal of making the shuttered landmark a regional beacon for the arts.

Koerner Kronenfeld Partners LLC, under its proposal to the town, will rebuild the existing 1,500-seat theater on Elm Street. Once the theater has established a regular base of patrons, the developer plans to construct two smaller theaters on the property on the banks of the Housatonic River.

Representatives for KKP, a strategic planning firm based on New York's Madison Avenue that specializes in media and entertainment, among other fields, could not be reached Tuesday.

"They seem to have extremely good personnel with great resumes," said Town Council Chairman James Feehan, R-9. "Top-notch caliber people."

KKP won the contract by a 9-0 vote of the council late Monday. Councilman Alvin O'Neal, D-2, abstained to protest that the council did not conduct public hearings on the proposals.

Feehan, who also wanted to hold hearings, said most council members believe their constituents favor KKP over the rival bidder, Stratford Theater Group, and wanted to avoid "a cheerleading section from each developer."

KKP and STG were the remaining bidders from a group of four developers late last year that sought to reopen the theater, which has been closed since 1989. The other two dropped out.
The town's contract with KKP to redevelop the theater and its grounds was approved with several conditions, including a proviso that the group stage a Shakespeare summer season this year.
"One way or the other there will be Shakespeare at that property this year," Mayor James Miron said. "If I have to get out there and read lines from 'Othello,' there will be a performance this year."
KKP also will be required to provide financing in "a reasonable time," according to the mayor. The town will stipulate what that time period will be.
KKP will have to reimburse the town for mechanics and judgment liens it paid to settle claims filed during failed attempts to reopen the theater in the past.
"The failure of any one performance clause would result in the contract reverting back to the town," Miron said.
Stratford Theater Group, the losing bidder, is led by Louis Burke, a Stratford resident with decades of theater experience.
Many of STG's members, including Burke, were involved in a state-sanctioned attempt to open the theater in the late 1990s, which failed.
"I felt as though those individuals that had been part of the last development team really broke a lot of dreams in town, left a lot of contractors with liens against the property and set back this

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