Islander's Blog

Keeping the Dreamland Alive

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

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