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Letter To The Editor

The following letter from the Committee to Save Proctor’s was published in the Times Union on Sunday, April 5th.  Let’s hope it changes minds!

Inspired by the announcement of plans to demolish Proctor’s Theater, except for its façade, there is an energetic grass-roots effort to save this community treasure.

Almost 2,000 people have signed a petition at http://www.troyproctors.com, and 850 people have helped spread the news and joined a group on Facebook.

Built in 1914, this building celebrates the best of Troy’s past and is more than symbolic of its future. We believe that saving the entire structure, including the grand theater, offices and retail storefronts, will serve as an important catalyst in Troy’s continuing economic revitalization.

Restore the interior theater space to its full glory, and Proctor’s can echo its original function of linking Troy to a changing world.

Programs from vaudeville productions, for which the theater was created, show that Proctor’s helped introduce Trojans to movies, wedging the films between live acts. Movies remain integral to our culture; a restored Proctor’s could bring films back to downtown Troy, as well as live performances. This would keep entertainment dollars local, and help reinvent our city as a vital place.

If we really believe in dreams of Troy as a bedroom community for New York City, then why not keep the theater to serve that imagined future? Surely people who work downstate will want to relax in style at their upstate home.

If full restoration is not immediately possible, then stabilize and mothball the theater until such time as a renovation can happen.

This is our last grand theater in Troy. Adaptive reuse is the only viable alternative to restoration or stabilization.

The city is applying for Restore NY funds for the project without asking owner Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute or Columbia Development to demonstrate the seriousness of their intent.

Putting funds in escrow for the proposed project would show that these entities mean business. Without such proof of purpose, who is to say this proposed new building will ever be constructed?

It is not too late to rewrite the script of this dramatic scenario, and the scale of this theater does demand drama. The 2,300-seat theater’s interior plasterwork is ornate. Ramps connect all the levels from the basement to the balcony, so the theater is entirely handicapped accessible.

Let’s revise the Restore NY request to best serve the city. Trojans often lament the gone glory days of a vibrant downtown. Remembering the way things were is easy, but remembering the folly of grand municipal mistakes is not.

Think of the plans for a mall in the middle of the city. In the late 1960s, Troy secured money to demolish entire blocks of buildings. A shopping center was to fill the empty space. Instead, those blocks sat empty for nearly a decade as multiple promises of construction fell through.

Do we need another hole in the city? No. We need to support our architectural history, first in word, and then in deed.

Financial support from Restore NY shouldn’t be thought of as Destroy NY. Our buildings are literal bridges that link our past to our future.

We can’t keep acting like history is something that happened, and buildings are something that can be torn up like photographs. History is something we are making, too, and the administration has a chance to join the well-established trend of rebuilding the city it serves by preservation.

Yes, the inside of the theater is in poor condition. So were the Rice Building, the Stanley Building, the former Standard Furniture Warehouse Building, the former Cluett Peabody buildings and the Frear Building. All have become Troy treasures. Instead of deeming them unusable, someone believed that they could be saved.

Let’s make Proctor’s our next success story.

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