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Proctors And Universal Preservation Hall Launch Effort To Transform Saratoga Cathedral

Lucas Willard

A fundraising campaign has been launched to turn a 19th-century cathedral in Saratoga Springs  into a hub for the arts.

Universal Preservation Hall, an 1871 Victorian Gothic cathedral a block from Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs, faced demolition a little more than a decade ago. Now, Proctors Theater and a group of volunteers are beginning a campaign to transform the historic building into an arts and cultural center in the Spa City.

Under a new partnership, Schenectady-based Proctors will manage operations and marketing at the hall, and UPH will retain its own executive staff.

Proctors CEO Philip Morris said he imagines the 12,000-square-foot space as "Saratoga's living room."

"And when we open you will see a program that includes things that you've already seen in this hall, from Electric City Couture, to  concerts, to music series, to things you've not seen in this hall before. And we're very excited to see about 200 nights of activity...in our first year," said Morris.

The space will accommodate 900 guests on its main floor and upper balconies.

UPH President Teddy Foster said the building has already come a long way since a wrecking ball outside. The organization had raised money to stabilize the building. But, she says, the building is only halfway finished, and a new capital campaign aims to bring the 19th-century hall into the 21st century.

"That means, for all of you out there, that we will have an elevator, we will have air conditioning and heat, and a lot of really good things inside this building so that we can turn Universal Preservation Hall into the cultural center in Saratoga, right in downtown," said Foster.

There will also be a new entrance, stabilized balconies, and new seating.

Proctors and UPH are working to raise $4.3 million for improvements. About $1.5 million is already in hand through historic tax credits and money raised by the UPH board.

Developer Sonny Bonacio is serving as the head of the UPH board.

"There's a lot of work to be done. I've had many conversations with some of you in the audience, you know I'm coming for you," joked Bonacio. "But this project is really going to be something the entire community gets behind."

UPH and Proctors hope to have the space ready for use in spring 2017.

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