January open house planned for SAD 51 arts center in Cumberland

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CUMBERLAND — The Greely Center for the Arts is on target to be largely finished during the second week in December, with an open house celebration planned for January.

With the exterior of the extension of Greely High School finished, interior work was in its final stages as School Administrative District 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter gave a tour of the facility Nov. 15.

The 26,000-square-foot, two-story building, designed by Stephen Blatt Architects, is being built at the rear of the 303 Main St. school in an area between the school and the outdoor track. Detailed information on the project is posted at msad51.org.

An open house is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, featuring student performances. “We’re keeping it kind of loose,” Porter said.

Carpeting was being installed on the stairs of the auditorium, where the 510 seats had just been installed. The audio-visual booth, looking down the rows of chairs onto the stage, was also being worked on.

The building has one elevator, as well as a lift for the orchestra pit. The building will have four bathrooms, as well as access to an extra two in the high school.

The district has hired Jennifer Segal, a former committee member for the arts center project who has worked on Broadway, to be the building manager. She has already received “tons of requests” from people wanting to use the space, and will soon begin scheduling, Porter said.

Segal will work with the soon-to-be established Greely Center for the Arts Advisory Committee, composed of about 10-12 people besides Porter, including students, parents, teachers and members of the SAD 51 Board of Directors and community. The board will also vote next month on an updated facilities policy, amended to include the center.

Porter sees the center as a hub for school and community activities and members alike.

“I want people to feel like they can come in here, and it’s theirs,” he noted.

Residents in Cumberland and North Yarmouth in November 2016 voted by a 2 percent margin, 4,149 to 3,953, to borrow as much as $9.5 million to build the center. Ground was broken at the site in October 2017.

Although the project and its price tag drew controversy, “I think once people get in here and start using it, and feel like they can use it … (it will be) very exciting,” Porter said.

Following so much planning, and a marathon of meetings, the superintendent was pleased to see the progress made.

“It’s just unbelievable, the amount of stuff that’s going on,” he said. “… It’s quite a facility.”

The project remains on budget, and on schedule – a slight lag during last year’s harsh winter was more than made up for this summer by Ledgewood Construction, Porter noted.

With band and chorus spaces at the Greely Institute portion of the high school to be vacated and moved to the arts center, the district plans to use any funds left over from the project toward the rehabilitation of that 1868 section, Porter said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Jeff Porter, superintendent of School Administrative District 51, in the 510-seat auditorium of the nearly complete Greely Center for the Arts in Cumberland on Nov. 15.

The Greely Center for the Arts, built onto Greely High School in Cumberland, is due for completion in December, with an open house celebration planned for January.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.