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Southington's Gura Building in file photo from August, 2008

Arts group passes halfway mark for Gura project funding

SOUTHINGTON — More than half the money needed to renovate the Gura Building into an arts center has been raised by Southington Community Cultural Arts eight months before the group’s deadline.

Under the terms of a deal with the town, Cultural Arts has 18 months to fund 80 percent of the total renovation cost of $1.71 million, which puts the nonprofit arts group’s share at $1.368 million.

More than $550,000 has been raised through donations alone, according to Mary DeCroce, the organization’s chairwoman.

A bond issue for $500,000 was also approved by the State Bond Commission for the group to use toward the renovations. Town Attorney Mark Sciota has been working with the organization to finalize and file the paperwork.

“I’ll be presenting it for a resolution at the council meeting on the 12th,” Sciota said. “After we get that we (file) the paperwork and the state takes it from there.”

Sciota said the timing of the funding will depend on the construction sequence.

DeCroce is also optimistic about the possibility of a $300,000 historic preservation grant which the organization is in the process of applying for, she said. And there could be another $100,000 from a fundraiser through Pilgrim Furniture in Southington.

The town approved a feasibility study with a $1.71 million renovation estimate for the former municipal office building at the corner of Main Street and Berlin Avenue. That allowed the arts group to begin raising money to renovate the building. If the group doesn’t raise the money in time, the agreement with the town will expire. If it succeeds in fundraising, the town will lease the building to the arts group for $1 a year, and renovations can begin.

“We’re more than halfway there,” DeCroce said. “Everything looks really good and it looks like we’re going to do it.”

Besides the bond issue, $17,000 has been raised through creating a Bike Parade at the Apple Harvest Festival in September where bicycles were transformed into pieces of art. The Joe & Kay Calvanese Foundation donated $25,000, and $10,000 was pledged by the Depaolo Family Foundation.

DeCroce said they are working to obtain the $300,000 historical preservation grant, which would come in the spring.

“It is preservation money and given as a tax credit,” DeCroce said. “There are five parts to the grant application and we just finished part two.”

For the next large fundraiser the group is working with Pilgrim Furniture and selling 1,000 tickets for $100 each. The tickets are put into a raffle and the winner will receive $25,000 to shop at Pilgrim Furniture.

“We really want the community to be on board with that fundraiser because that’s a $100,000 potential fundraiser,” said Dawn Miceli, a member of the arts group and town councilor. “The focus has been on that from this point on.”

Town Councilor Cheryl Lounsbury said the fundraising so far has been “a great start.”

“I think we’re all hoping that they get the money,” Lounsbury said. “I think it’s very difficult to get money in these economic times. If they do it that’s a wonderful thing.

Architectural plans for the renovation of the Gura Building have been complete and Miceli said in the next few weeks she will be making appointments with local contractors to ask if they would consider donating services. That is the next part of the campaign, Miceli said.

“Our local contracting community and local businesses have always stepped up for non profits in Southington,” Miceli said. “We’re seeking their support.”

To find out more about the Pilgrim Furniture raffle and fundraiser or to donate visit the Southington Community Cultural Arts website at (203) 317-2212 Twitter: @FollowingFarrah

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