Salisbury Firehouse Makeover Clears Hurdle; Live Entertainment Venue Construction Underway

SALISBURY — The last big hurdle for the proposed Headquarters Live in Salisbury was taken at a running jump last week when the town’s Historic District Commission (HDC), in front of a crowd of supporters, approved an application by the property owners to include three additional openings to the exterior of the building.

Construction is underway and the plan is to have the music and entertainment venue open by the end of the calendar year.

“Getting the historic district to agree to grant us permission for the three additional openings on the north side of the building was really the last crucial approval that we needed,” said Brad Gillis of Devreco, the firm that’s developing the site. “So we’re off to the races right now and should have construction completed by the fourth quarter of this year.”

The last real obstacle in the property’s development was whether it would be allowed three important outside openings along the exterior that would greatly increase Headquarters Live’s ability to function as an entertainment facility.

“Where the real brass tacks is, is having those three garage doors with three additional openings on the north side,” said Gillis, “which allows us to have both an inside and outside venue.”

Due to its location and historical significance, the property, known locally as the Old Salisbury Firehouse, fell under the jurisdiction of the HDC, at least as far as building modifications are concerned. Devreco’s application before the commission received strong support from the community, which Gillis believes recognizes the potential for the venue to positively affect the area around it.

“I see that kind of being the story, quite honestly. It was standing room only at the Historic District meeting. You have close to 70 people at a meeting,” said Gillis. “It’s a lot easier to have people come out to oppose something but when you have standing room only that supports a project, I think the community spoke loud and clear and was heard that this is something that we want.”

The property has been open for some type of redevelopment since the end of the last decade. It was originally declared surplus by the city in 2008 and accepted bids for years. Devreco submitted the winning bid in 2013.

What’s underway right now is a plan to turn it into a premier entertainment and music facility. The ground “venue” floor is approximately 4,000 square feet and will contain stage space with professional level sound and lighting. It should be the kind of attraction that is able to bring in large traveling regional acts while still catering to local artists, according to Gillis.

The impact on the music community could be big, and Gillis thinks that will translate to a similar financial boost for the neighborhood and the city. The philosophy is that people follow entertainment and it is a critical part of any economic ecosystem.

“I really do think this has the potential to be a game changer for downtown Salisbury. Having this venue will become almost a nucleus for activity and it will draw retail traffic,” he said. “It will draw restaurant and bar traffic. Everything will center around this and it will compliment everything.”

As construction progresses so do efforts to find a qualified operator for the spot. Talks are going well, according to Gillis, and the next big announcement for Headquarters Live will likely be the identity of such a managing party who would be responsible for organizing entertainment and artists.

“What a venue represents is another piece of the cultural puzzle,” said Jamie Heater, 3rd Friday Coordinator.  “Performing arts space, an art gallery and community events will be the driving force behind a thriving downtown.  This venture will breathe new life into the Old Firehouse and downtown Salisbury.”