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Ja’Duke expansion in final planning stages

  • Ja'Duke Center for Performing Arts in the Turners Falls Industrial Park. August 12, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...

  • Ja’Duke Center for Performing Arts in the Turners Falls Industrial Park. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Owner and director of the Ja'Duke Center for the Performing Arts, Kimberly Williams, front, instructs a tap dancing class, on Tuesday, March, 27, 2018 on Industrial Boulevard in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Owner and director of the Ja'Duke Center for the Performing Arts, Kimberly Williams, front, instructs a tap dancing class, on Tuesday, March, 27, 2018 on Industrial Boulevard in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Ja'Duke Center for Performing Arts on Industrial Boulevard in Turners Falls, on Tuesday, March, 27, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Ja'Duke Center for Performing Arts on Industrial Boulevard in Turners Falls, on Tuesday, March, 27, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Thursday, April 12, 2018

TURNERS FALLS — Local performing arts group and preschool Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts is swiftly moving ahead with plans to expand its building to allow for a large theater and more classroom space.

The Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a zoning variance Ja’Duke requested in which the maximum height of the new building would be 51 feet, 5 inches. However, the Zoning Board’s approval is contingent on the approval of MassDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The maximum building height rule in Montague is 36 feet, but theater company requested relief to accommodate stage rigging necessary for backdrops, lighting and theatrical rigging. 

Ja’Duke will receive a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan of nearly $100,000 for its $2.2 million, 18,000-foot expansion. The plan was unanimously supported by town meeting members in February, and now Ja’Duke must get their site plan and building permit approved before construction can begin.

The town estimates the project could result in about $528,000 in new tax revenue for Montague over the 10-year TIF plan.

Nick Waynelovich, director and founder of Ja’Duke Productions, hopes to have the expansion up and running September 2019. 

Expansion plans

Expansion plans include more preschool classrooms, a digital room with movie making and sound recording capabilities and a large theater with a separate entrance. The expansion will be attached to Ja’Duke’s existing building toward the end of Industrial Boulevard in Turners Falls.

Nick Waynelovich, director of Ja’Duke, said that multiple cameras will be able to be operated onstage and allow for more in-depth productions. The theater will have 500 seats and a 100-foot-wide and 50-feet-deep stage — larger than the Greenfield High School stage, which Ja’Duke has been using for their performances. To accommodate the crowds, 175 parking spaces will be implemented.

The expansion will also be “completely green,” according to Waynelovich. There will be state-of-the-art lighting — all LED and no tungsten lights.

“The lights will pay for themselves in three months,” Waynelovich said.

The new building will be a pre-engineered steel structure “compatible with the buildings on Industrial Boulevard,” according to architect Joseph Mattei. The color will match the current building and the roof is planned to be made of tin. 

The goal is to eventually hire for 11 new full-time positions after the expansion opens, including preschool teachers. Four new preschool rooms will be open immediately.

Over the past 10 years, Ja’Duke has sold approximately 100,000 tickets to their productions, according to Waynelovich. 

“We anticipate bringing a lot of people into Turners Falls,” Waynelovich said. “We are going to be the finest, state-of-the-art theatre in Franklin County, bar-none.”

Waynelovich hopes that the expansion will eventually allow for an “educational wing” to be developed to help train teachers. He also hopes to hold a children’s program the first Saturday of each month. 

“We can’t even fathom how this (expansion) will change our operations,” said Waynelovich’s daughter Kim Williams, who is also a Ja’Duke instructor.

“The really amazing thing about business is that you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Waynelovich.

“It’s also very scary,” Williams chimed in with a laugh.

Current operations

The current location on Industrial Boulevard past Franklin County Tech School has been Ja’Duke’s home for the past 12 years. Before that, they rented space at the Colle Opera House in downtown Turners Falls. 

Ja’Duke teaches about 60 kids a day in their four different classrooms. Students four and older prepare for kindergarten in the “Yellow Room,” while kids three turning four use the “Blue Room” to learn how to share and follow classroom routines.

Older toddlers learn potty training and self-help skills in the “Green Room,” and infants and young toddlers get used to being separated from their parents in the “Orange Room.”

The downstairs part of the building holds the classrooms and offices, as well as a large-scale printer for banners and backdrops. Props, backdrops, and costumes are stored upstairs, where private voice and piano lessons are also given.

Next steps

The Planning Board will have a chance to approve Ja’Duke’s site plan April 24. Then, the building permit will need to be approved, but a date is not set yet.

Ja’Duke has also set up a site, https://www.jadukedream.com, for community members to make contributions towards the expansion and programs.Those who make donations will be thanked at an Opening Gala when the expansion is open next September.

“We’re spending $2.2 million for the kids of Franklin County,” Waynelovich said.

Reach Christie Wisniewski at: cwisniewski@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280