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Stratford sets dates for Shakespeare theater property workshops

March 20, 2019

STRATFORD — If you have an opinion on what should happen to the Shakespeare theater property — and if social media comments are any indication, you definitely do — plan on setting some time aside next month.

The town is scheduling several workshops next month to solicit opinions from residents about what will happen to the site where the once-iconic theater burned down in January.

The workshops are scheduled for:

April 1, 6 p.m. at the Birdseye Municipal Complex, 468 Birdseye St.

April 10, 12:30 p.m. at the Baldwin Senior Center, 1000 West Broad St.

April 24, 6 p.m. at Boothe Memorial Park, 5800 Main St.

Economic Development Director Mary Dean said she was also working on setting up other forums for students and arts groups the details of which will be announced.

Meanwhile cleanup work at the site was scheduled to be completed this week, Chief Administrative Officer Chris Tymniak announced Monday during a meeting of the task force overseeing the conversation about the property.

“The site has been leveled. All of the debris has been taken out. We’re going to seed it probably in two to three weeks, when it’s better seeding weather,” Tymniak said. “It’s essentially cleared and ready for grass seed to go down and the spring weather to turn it into a lawn.”

About six people attended the meeting, one of whom asked when the results of the investigation into the fire’s cause will be released. Task force members referred him to the mayor’s office.

Hearst Connecticut Media sent a Freedom of Information request to the town Feb. 1 requesting information on the investigation, insurance for the property and town officials’ communications regarding the site.

A lawyer working for the town replied saying he would compile the information. Hearst Connecticut Media e-mailed the mayor’s chief of staff Wednesday afternoon asking if there was any update.

At Monday’s meeting the task force’s members reviewed a list of questions to present to residents at next month’s workshops, then held mock sessions to try and iron out any kinks in the process.

Some general questions to be discussed: What is unique about the town and how does the property contribute to that? What arts and entertainment offerings exist now in Stratford? What ideas for the property would work within the deed restriction that it remain open to the public and used for “public entertainment purposes?” What about financing? What type of organization or group should oversee the process?

After the forums Town Planner Susmitha Attota said officials will compile the information and perform what’s called a “SWOT analysis” (an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of the information for further discussion.

Though task force members discussed their own ideas, they stressed that at next month’s forums to solicit ideas from residents and facilitate the conversation.

“Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors,” Tom Dillon, one of the task force’s co-chairs, said. “If there’s a group in town that wants to participate in this, please reach out to us. (Or) just come and attend. If you want to represent a group, if you’re there as an individual, now is the time to participate.”