Scott Hayward hopes to see the New Year in in Derry.
The Derry resident and owner of Tupelo Music Hall went before the Planning Board at its July 6 meeting to gain approval of a site plan for 10 A St. The move will double the seating for the national rock, folk and blues acts he hosts, while bringing needed customers to other Derry businesses, and the Planning Board unanimously approved the plan.
The parcel is PID 08001-002004 and is the site of the former Gold’s Gym. Hayward will have one tenant, the Ombudsman program of Pinkerton Academy, and has room for two more.
Hayward explained that his Londonderry venue, where he’s been for 12 years, has 240 seats and sells out 80 percent of the time. There are not enough bathrooms and not enough parking places, he said, noting that current guests frequently park along the road. The new venue will allow him to seat up to 500, he said.
His engineer, Karl Dubay of the Dubay Group, said the Derry property has 3.6 acres. The plan is to “spruce up” the site and keep the existing building, he said. The current landscaping will remain, but Hayward and his team will take down all the invasive species, including several burning bush plants, Dubay said.
The parking area will remain in the same spot but will be slightly expanded, Dubay said. The lot itself will be rebuilt and catch basins added, while the lighting will be replaced with LED lights.
The former health club included an outdoor pool that Dubay described as a mosquito breeding ground. The pool will be removed and replaced by an area for tour buses to park and unload.
“We will be adding only about 2,000 square feet of impervious surface,” Dubay said.
The parking lot currently has 87 spaces, Dubay said. His client wants to add 120, for a build-out of 207. But he and Hayward want to add 70 parking spaces in Phase I, the current phase, and another 50 in a Phase II.
Town engineer Mark L’Heureux said he would like to see more detail on the phasing-in.
Hayward said the 50 spaces of Phase II aren’t needed right now. “January and February will be slow,” he said. “We don’t start doing the big shows until May.”
He estimated that the 87 current spaces and the 70 of Phase I would be enough for now. “We need 180 spaces for a full show,” he said.
The Ombudsman program is a school and lets out at 3 p.m., Hayward said, and he expects other businesses he rents to to be out at 5 or 6 p.m., freeing up spaces for his guests.
“I have been to the site,” Planning Board member Jim MacEachern said. “You can park all the cars there now.”
Alternate member Mark Connors asked if the single proposed exit/entrance would be enough. “Will you need a second egress?” he asked.
Member Randy Chase, also a member of the Highway Safety Committee, said the committee thought the exit/entrance was appropriate for the amount of traffic Hayward would have. “People won’t be rushing to get in before the show,” he predicted. “They’ll be going around town, getting something to eat. And people won’t be rushing to get out. Some of them will want to stay and talk to the band members.”
“We have tracked our traffic over the years,” Hayward contributed. “It’s a trickle. It’s not mass entrances and mass exits.”
Dubay said his design includes a “mini-intersection” in the parking lot.
There will also be a small café in the building, so guests can come early and get a bite or a drink. This will further cut down on any “crush” at the entrance, he said.
The building is 20,000 square feet. Hayward said he plans to occupy 13,000 square feet with Tupelo, and plans to continue renting to Ombudsman. In addition, he said, there is a 2,000-square-foot office in “turnkey” condition and a fourth space he will either rent or use for storage.
Chairman David Granese asked about signage. Hayward is requesting an electronic sign. “I am not planning to put fireworks on it or anything like that,” he said. The sign will typically hold a photo of the artist and his or her upcoming concert date, although he said he would also use it to advertise community events.
“We are concert promoters and we need people to know what we’re doing,” he said, adding that he had already talked with Code Enforcement Officer Bob Mackey about signage.
There were no speakers in a public hearing, and L’Heureux said Public Works has no issues with the project.
According to Hayward, his typical guests are in the 45 to 65 age bracket. They don’t come to get drunk but to see a show, he said, adding, “I don’t cater to 20-year-olds. I don’t book hard rock or rap.”
But those seasoned customers have disposable incomes, and Hayward predicted there would be a ripple effect to other Derry businesses.
He’s pleased to be coming home and pleased to be joining Derry’s art scene, he said, including Pinkerton Academy’s Stockbridge Theatre and the Derry Opera House. He said he hopes to open in his new venue by the end of the year.
Hayward said he will close on the property on July 15. After that, he said, “We’ve got crews lined up and we’re ready to go. I want Derry to have the best New Year’s Eve ever.”