Westfield Playhouse receives façade grant


Patrons of the Westfield Playhouse next season may not recognize the former church after it receives a facelift thanks to a $5,000 matching façade grant from the City of Westfield.

On July 14, the city council approved a special resolution that found the proposed improvements of the theater are within the goals and objectives of the grant program as intended despite its geographical location away from downtown.

“It helps us make our building look better,” said John Sampson, president of Main Street Productions of Westfield board of directors. “The building will look like it’s supposed to – clean all the way around.”

Sampson credited City Council President Jim Ake and Mayor Andy Cook for the matching grant. Ake said the council approval was a one-time exception to the city’s façade grant program.

“They’d raised some money and we’d like to help the gateway to the west,” he said. “It’s an extension of the community, an integral part of our community.”

The playhouse is involved in the city’s annual Voices from the Past program, Westfield in Lights and Westfield Rocks the 4th.

“We love working with the city and all of the departments. This is a sign of reciprocation,” Sampson said.

If the matching grant was not approved, Sampson said it would have taken the playhouse an extra two years to raise the necessary funds.

“We’re putting money into the building because we can’t go anywhere else now. We see it as an investment if we do ever decide to sell.”

Sampson, who has been president for the past six years, said he’s wanted to update the building for the past five years. He said three years ago the playhouse was approached by the Downtown Westfield Association to apply for a matching façade grant but at that time funds were not available.

“New white siding will be wrapping our building as a result of a special ad selling drive undertaken by Syd Loomis,” Sampson said, adding the construction will be completed by the end of October. “We’ll take it upon ourselves to paint the foundation and add a little more landscaping around the sign.”

Sampson said the outside improvements are the first item on the agenda in the theater’s capital improvement projects.

“Our next project in this ongoing work is making the building handicap accessible with restrooms following that as soon as sewers and water are available,” Sampson said, adding that the sewer and water lines are expected to be constructed by the city in two years. “We’ll be adding to the building and move the restrooms inside.”