Islander's Blog

Archive for May, 2008

Keeping the Dreamland Alive

Friday, May 9th, 2008

This week, the Nantucket Dreamland Foundation unveiled its plans for the renovation and expansion of the historic downtown moviehouse. It’s an ambitious project, but one that promises to do more justice to the island icon than the sprawling condominium, restaurant, lounge, underground parking and theater complex proposed by its previous owner, Boston developer Haim Zahavi, before he gutted the building, ran into hurdle after hurdle with local regulatory authorities and sold the theater last fall.

The Dreamland Foundation envisions a three-story building with two theaters, one of 350 seats, the other a second-floor, 170-seater. The biggest change will be in the rear of the building on what is now the parking lot facing the Easy Street Basin, where a tiered, three-level addition would include a large “community room,” open-air decks on the second and third floors, a media room, offices and a backstage green room.

The addition will be the heart of what the foundation hopes will be its program center, where island nonprofits, community groups and other organizations can utilize the “community room” and other areas for meetings, functions and luncheons.

This kind of space is sorely needed on Nantucket, and will be a welcome addition to the downtown waterfront once it is built.

The catch, if you can call it that, is that the historic building will have to be – in the words of the Foundation – “dismantled” and a new structure built in its place. They’re calling it a dismantling rather than a demolition since they hope to reuse as much of the old material as they can. The structure is too unstable in its current condition, however, for a simple reno job.

There are still plenty of regulatory and other hurdles to clear before a new Dreamland will rise from the bones of the old, and there is a very good chance the end result won’t necessarily look like the plans unveiled this week.

But since the grand old moviehouse has been shuttered, dark and deteriorating since Zahavi shut it down three years ago, it’s a project worth waiting for.

For comprehensive coverage of the Dreamland saga, click here

– Joshua Balling, I&M Managing Editor

Nantucket Scholars

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Outside of covering School Committee meetings and writing the occasional feature story about some smart kid or award-winning teacher, until very recently I never thought all that much about education.

Having graduated from an incredibly small high school (41 students in the senior class) in New York State, I pretty much took for granted that a public-school education was what it was: a melting pot of talented and not-so-talented teachers, and dedicated and not-so-dedicated students, all with a burning desire to get out as soon as possible.

I’m paying a lot more attention to school now, because I’ve got a daughter wrapping up kindergarten. I see first-hand every day the talent and dedication of her teachers, and in the middle and high school, the commitment of many of the students to receiving the highest-quality education they can get.

Nowhere was that more evident than at Tuesday night’s Nantucket Scholar awards ceremony at the Nantucket Golf Club. Eleven Nantucket High School seniors were vying for two full-tuition scholarships from the Nantucket Golf Club Foundation. The winners – Tomas Smaliorius and Anita Elahi – were the best of the best, and will graduate in the top 5 percent of their class.

Theirs is a story of hard work, commitment and sacrifice. In short, it’s a story about the American dream.

Smaliorius, who plans to attend Bucknell University in the fall to study engineering, came to Nantucket from Lithuania when he was 10 years old speaking only a handful of English words. His mother Vilma works as a clerk at the U.S. Post Office and went to school with him for the first two weeks to translate. After that, he was on his own. At home, he would listen to audiotapes and work with his stepfather Bob McGrath to perfect his English.

It worked. Today he takes honors and Advanced Placement courses, plays varsity football, basketball and baseball, and is a member of the Spanish Club and the school’s peer mediation group.

Elahi’s mother Christine, an executive housekeeper at the Wauwinet House, is from Germany, and her father, Ranju, a manager at Old South Liquors, is from Bangladesh.

Anita hopes one day to be an ambassador to Bangladesh, and plans to attend George Washington University in the fall. She is the world news editor for the student newspaper Veritas, a volunteer at the Landmark House, and a literacy volunteer.

She also played junior varsity basketball her freshman and sophomore years and was on the girls varsity basketball team last year.

Kudos to these two students, and the other nine finalists, for making the most of their opportunities, and representing their school – and their families – so well.

– Joshua Balling, I&M Managing Editor