NEW BEDFORD — A City Council committee will reschedule its meeting on the proposed lease of the city-owned Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.
Councilors had planned to meet on Sept. 27 to discuss the proposed lease agreement, which would allow the Zeiterion nonprofit to occupy the theater for 99 years. The long-term lease is critical to the $32 million renovation that the nonprofit has planned for the building, but at least one councilor has questioned the length of the lease.
The meeting of the Committee on City Property was canceled less than three hours before it was scheduled to begin because City Solicitor Eric Jaikes was ill and could not attend, according to the City Council office. The council has not announced a new meeting date yet.
Zeiterion CEO Rosemary Gill has warned that a shorter lease agreement could undermine the project’s federal historic tax credits, jeopardizing its viability. One investor’s contribution of $8 million to $10 million depends on those credits, which require a long-term agreement, she previously told The Light.
Without the 99-year lease, the theater might have to close, Gill said.
Councilor Maria Giesta, who chairs the city property committee, previously told The Light she wasn’t comfortable voting for a lease that long. She suggested she would be more comfortable with a 50- or 60-year agreement.
It’s not clear how long the lease would need to be to secure the historic tax credits. That was one of the topics councilors planned to discuss at the canceled meeting.
Other councilors — including Naomi R.A. Carney, Shane Burgo, Ryan Pereira, and Brad Markey — told The Light they would not object to the 99-year term.
Giesta and Gill did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Email Grace Ferguson at email@example.com