On June 21st, Mayor William Samaras and other fortunate local dignitaries were given the opportunity for a sneak peek of Middlesex Community College’s latest coming attraction–The Donahue Family Academic Arts Center at the former Boston and Maine Railroad Depot on Central Street.
Depot Building in 1876 and 1984 Photos: Lowell Historic Board
The historic building, commonly known locally as the Rialto buidling, has undergone several different identities since its construction in 1876, including stints as a movie theater, bowling alley, and a congressional campaign office. In the 1980’s the building faced demolition until the Lowell Historic Board stepped in to save the structure. It was donated to the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission in 1989. In 2008, Middlesex Community College purchased the property with plans to redevelop it into an academic performing arts center. RichardHowe.com has a fuller rundown on the history of the building in this 2016 article about the groundbreaking ceremony at the site in 2015.
A long awaited project: former City Manager Bernie Lynch, former MCC President Carole Cowan, and former LNHP Superintendent Michael Creasey at the 2008 ceremony marking MCC’s takeover of the Depot building. (Photos: MCC)
The MCC Academic Arts Center will support classrooms and performance space for music and dance, exhibit space, and multi-purpose space. All of these educational activities will serve not only students enrolled in courses at the college, but also many other segments of the Lowell community, including the public schools system, the National Park Service, and other public and private agencies and organizations with which the college regularly collaborates.
The Academic Arts Center will officially open its doors in September with the Middlesex Community College theater presentation of Romeo & Juliet. Guests to the Open House on Thursday got a glimpse of several of the building’s features:
A 190-seat Proscenium Theater
103-seat second floor Recital Hall
900-square-foot Dance Studio
Backstage and Dressing Rooms
Flexible Classroom Spaces
And even up into the Tower Room, which MCC Provost Phil Sisson joked was going to be President James Mabry’s second office. The original towers of the building were actually demolished during the mid 20th century before being restored by the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission.
While guests were truly impressed by the public-facing performance spaces, the hosts also emphasized that each section of the Academic Arts Center was designed with academics in mind–teaching and learning always at the forefront.
The official ribbon cutting and debut performance at the center are scheduled for September. Until then, you can learn more about the space and Middlesex Community College’s performing arts programs by visiting www.middlesex.mass.edu/academicartscenter/