By the time spring arrives, Toad’s Place will no longer be the sole music venue in New Haven.
City officials announced at a press conference yesterday that the old Palace Theater on 238 College St. will reopen as the College Street Music Hall. The New Haven Center for Performing Arts, a non-profit organization that owns the property, located directly across from the Shubert Theater, is spearheading and fully funding the effort to renovate the site that has been closed for 12 years.
“The Palace was the place to be when I was young,” New Haven Director of Arts, Culture and Tourism Andrew Wolf said. “[The music hall] will be a place for residents, especially Yale students, to enjoy and experience New Haven’s culture.”
Although the old Palace Theater closed in 2003, an agreement between the University and the city in 1999 ensured that the site would be preserved as an arts and performance venue, NHCPA President Elissa Getto said. Though the University owns the majority of properties surrounding the hall on College Street, the theater is owned by the NHCPA.
“One of the things that makes [the new music hall] possible is that, back in the late nineties, when all of the property was changing hands along this street, Yale University made sure that this building remained under the control of [the NHCPA],” said New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81. “They could have owned this building.”
The NHCPA will collaborate with Keith Mahler, president of Premier Concerts — a Connecticut based music promoter — to oversee the hall’s operations. Mahler, who is in charge of booking acts to perform at the venue, said he has already been speaking to interested artists and will announce the opening schedule of performances later this winter.
The hall, which will seat around 650 and have standing room for around 2,000 audience members, will attract more prominent artists, who are looking to perform in larger venues than Toad’s Place, according to Nemerson.
Dean of the School of Drama James Bundy DRA ‘95 added that the theater will bring in musicians who are not currently heard live in New Haven.
The hall is within close proximity to other performance venues such as the Yale Repertory Theater and the Off-Broadway Theater. Adding another arts venues may bring more traffic to the city and necessitate additional parking spots, according to Nemerson.
“We have to make sure there’s enough parking, ” Nemerson said. “We don’t want to ever have people say, ‘we can’t go to New Haven. It’s too crowded.’”
Nemerson said that the city would work to renovate the Crown Street garage and arrange for additional parking areas for the music hall if necessary.
At the press conference, Mayor Toni Harp emphasized the renovations as “another deliberate step toward redefining the city.” Earlier this month, plans were announced to renovate buildings in New Haven’s Dixwell neighborhood to create a revitalized area with apartments and restaurants.
“A city’s arts and cultural offerings express the heart and soul of that community,” Harp said. “In New Haven, we are rich in that regard, and, with this additional evidence today, we are adding value to that portfolio.”
The Palace Theater was built in 1926.