By George Basler
A plan by the Goodwill Theatre to erect a tent at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage for live productions beginning in the spring is now under consideration by Johnson City officials.
The theater is working with the village on a site plan, and JC’s planning board has scheduled a Zoom public hearing on the project for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23. The board must approve a special use permit to locate the tent in a neighborhood/commercial zoning district, said Marina Lane, senior planner for the Town of Union. (Lane is providing planning services as part of the town’s shared services agreement with the village.)
Goodwill, closed to live productions since last March because of the COVID-19 epidemic, wants to put up a 40-foot by 90-foot tent in its Firehouse Stage’s parking lot at 46 Willow St. The tent would host live performances from May to October, CEO Naima Kradjian said.
As part of its plan, Goodwill is demolishing a building it owns on Broad Street to create a new parking area. Goodwill would install a speaker system and a security fence.
After the public hearing, the planning board will have up to 62 days to decide whether to grant the permit, Lane said. Members will consider if the project, which includes live shows and music performances, is appropriate for the area and meets site plan requirements.
“I can’t predict how the planning board will vote,” Lane said.
In the meantime, Johnson City has submitted paperwork to Broome County for review under State Law 239, which requires review of a project located within 500 feet of municipal boundaries, county or state parks and recreation areas, county or state highways, county-owned streams or drainage channels, or county or state-owned land on which a public building or institution is located.
Erecting the tent will allow the Goodwill Theatre to resume its mission of hosting local performing groups and bringing touring performers to the region, Kradjian said. “It’s always a risk, but we feel comfortable doing it,” she said, adding that she thinks audiences are starved for live entertainment.
Kradjian put the total investment for the project at some $50,000. The theater has ordered a tent from Eureka Tents and has received funding from M&T Bank to cover part of the cost, she said. The company is working to finalize other funding support.
The tent would hold audiences of between 50 and 75 persons to meet social distancing requirements, Kradjian said. Capacity could increase to 200 persons if the vaccine rollout allows for larger audiences by the spring and summer.
Kradjian foresees productions beginning in early May with a two-week engagement of the children’s musical Honk! Other events in the works include Ladies of Laughter, a Harry Chapin tribute concert, a performance by Uptown Girls, Jazz Night events and a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Goodwill Theatre building.
In addition to hosting events this year, the tent could house productions when the Firehouse Stage is closed for planned reconstruction, Kradjian said. The tent also would be available for use by other organizations, including the Binghamton Philharmonic and Tri Cities Opera, she added, noting: “This gives us maximum space to offer different performances.”