Sands family and Constellation Brands contribute $1 million toward Fort Hill project

CANANDAIGUA — This could be an example of just how excited the community is about the proposed Fort Hill Performing Arts Center.

The Sands Family and Constellation Brands Inc. contributed an initial gift of $500,000 — and on Thursday, the center’s board of directors announced a matching gift of $500,000 to be used toward the renovation of Canandaigua Academy’s former auditorium, which is located in the Fort Hill Apartments. Conifer Realty LLC, which owns the apartments, also is renovating the facility.

The latter Sands’ gift was a match of the $500,000 coming from the community, which according to Gordon Estey, president of the FHPAC board, was raised in just two months.

“We are so overwhelmed and grateful for the generous support and gifts from the community and their ongoing support and to the Sands Family and Constellation Brands,” Estey said in a prepared statement.

“I am so proud that our community supports the arts,” Estey said. “It will create additional value to the already great quality of life in the greater Canandaigua area.”

Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni, who also serves on the board, said the support for the center is coming not only from former students in the community, but parents of former students.

“There is a great deal of enthusiasm in the community to see this become a reality,” Polimeni said. “It’s been amazing.”

The mid-sized venue will be designed for use by community arts organizations such as orchestras, chamber groups, bands, dramatic and musical theater productions, and more.

The facility is designed to bring in outside audiences as well as residents of the Fort Hill Apartments.

The total funding for the project is $5.8 million and with the $1 million from the Sands Family and Constellation Brands, $5 million has been raised to date, meaning $800,000 is still needed.

That’s why the FHPAC fundraising campaign is still continuing to provide funding for equipment and first-year operating expenses of the theater.

Estey said the final plans are due in the next three weeks and the excitement is growing among the FHPAC board and community to see the commercial theater venue become a reality.

The closing process has begun and soon enough FHPAC, which is a not-for-profit corporation, will own the 420-seat theater.

Construction and renovations to the theater will begin in September and are expected to take about 15 months.