The Lawrence Arts Center has closed on the purchase of the former Salvation Army building next door at 946 New Hampshire St., according to an announcement Friday morning.
The purchase is the Arts Center’s first real estate acquisition, according to the announcement.
The acquisition continues the broadening of the arts center’s footprint in downtown Lawrence. 10th and Mass Studios — a large performance, rehearsal, gallery and storage annex at 1000 Massachusetts St., around the corner from the main building at 940 New Hampshire St. — opened in spring 2022.
Arts center CEO Margaret Morris previously said the space will be used for an expansion of the center’s arts-based early childhood education program. It will allow the center to serve more kids as well as accommodate full-day care for parents and families who need that, Morris said.
The purchase also secures the green space between the buildings.
“Outdoor activities are a vital element of learning for the Arts Center’s early childhood education program,” Morris said in Friday’s announcement. “Without this purchase, we would have risked losing our green space, which would have also impacted the community and surrounding neighborhood.”
Morris said in January that she’d also like to expand the green space for an outdoor learning classroom, though that idea is still “absolutely in the dream stage.” The space could also hold outdoor concerts and performances.
However, it will be a few years before dreams for the building next door can come to fruition. The arts center’s board is assembling a team of local experts to conduct a feasibility assessment and determine necessary building repairs, according to the release.
Feasibility assessments will take place over the next three to five years; until they are finished, the center will seek a renter to occupy the building, according to the release.
“We are excited about the opportunity to expand access to the arts in Lawrence and better serve the community in new ways,” Whitney Lang, board chair, said in the release. “The first step is to explore all options for 946 New Hampshire while considering how we use existing spaces as well. The goal is to make the most fiscally responsible decision to benefit the community.”
The City of Lawrence’s Arts Commons Tax Increment Fund (TIF) agreement, financing and generous donors funded the purchase, according to the release.