Arts council will allow Gamm time for Times building conflict to be resolved

Arts council will allow Gamm time for Times building conflict to be resolved

PAWTUCKET – The head of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts said this week that the organization will give leaders of the Gamm Theatre a grace period to allow for a resolution of the ongoing conflict over ownership of the theater’s target location.

Randy Rosenbaum, executive director of RISCA, said he read the story in last week’s edition of The Breeze on the controversy over the sale of The Times building at 23 Exchange St. to developer Michael Leshinsky.

“We had a discussion with the Gamm leadership in which we, first and foremost, reiterated our support for the work the Gamm Theatre is doing to contribute to the economic and cultural life of Pawtucket and the Blackstone Valley,” he said. “We also made it clear that we stand by the grant and will provide the time necessary to resolve any issues related to legal ownership of the building.”

A representative for the Gamm did not respond to a request for comment this week.

Gamm leaders received a grant of $211,500 from RISCA last month to analyze a potential move and start construction on a new theater at The Times building up the road. The Breeze reported last week that the project is in limbo after owners of The Times denied that they were in active discussions for a sale of their building to Leshinsky, who was working with the Gamm as his planned anchor tenant as part of a larger mixed-used project.

The grant was awarded based on a portion of it being used for construction of a new Gamm Theatre at The Times building, but that project is now in question. A Feb. 4 front-page editorial in The Times denied any active discussions on selling the building at 23 Exchange St. to Leshinsky and said Leshinsky had no right to be negotiating with the Gamm as a prospective tenant.

Leshinsky previously told The Breeze he planned to include the Gamm project after he buys the building for $700,000. He produced a 2015 purchase and sale agreement appearing to show that he has three years from the date of that agreement to move forward with the project.

The developer said this week that he’s consulted with attorneys and is weighing whether to sue the owners of the building after investing more than $100,000 in the project.