Albert Theatre gets boost from Berlin Better Buildings

BERLIN – Paul Cusson’s restoration of the Albert Theatre has gotten a boost from the Berlin Better Buildings Program.
Fran and Paul Cusson purchased the historic building back in 1999, with the hope of persuading J.C. Penney to relocate there and remain an anchor store in the downtown. That didn’t happen and last year the Cussons went to the planning board to preview their plans to convert the building into a downtown family entertainment center.
After reading about the Cussons’ plans, Cimbria Badenhausen of Berlin Better Buildings called Paul Cusson and said she thought her program could help him. BBB works with residential and commercial property owners to make buildings more energy efficient. Aware of the program, Cusson said he decided to meet with Badenhausen.
Through its commercial program, BBB covered the entire cost of an energy analysis of the building provided Cusson agreed to move forward with carrying out some of the recommendations made in the audit. Furthermore, the program covers 25 percent of the energy improvements up to a maximum of $150,000. The Retail Merchants Association, which Cusson joined, will pick up another 20 percent of the costs. In total, Badenhausen noted BBB and the Retail Merchants Association will pick up 45 percent of the energy improvements, provided the building can achieve a 15 percent increase in energy efficiency. The audit recommended insulation, air sealing, lighting, and a heat recovery unit for Cusson’s building that combined should result in a 29 percent increase in energy efficiency.
Badenhausen said the idea of the program is to do as much as possible to reduce energy consumption.
As an electrician, Cusson said he opted to do the lighting and heat recovery work himself. But he went through the program to do the air sealing and insulation work, which BBB Technical Advisor Bob Tortorice said will result in a 16 percent increase in energy efficiency.
Quality Insulation of Meredith did spray form insulation of all the walls in the basement and second floor. Cusson had already insulated the first floor using fiberglass insulation. Quality Insulation project manager Scott Delafontaine is a Berlin native.
BBB hired Berlin contractor ROMIX consisting of Roland Berthiaume and Mike Couch to insulate the roof. Cusson noted he had replaced the roof six years ago. So the insulation was put on top of the existing roof and a PVC covering was placed on top of the insulation. The roof is white to reflect the sun back off the surface.
Cusson has been restoring the building, working largely by himself, for more than ten years.
“It’s a long process,” he admitted.
He estimates going through the BBB program saved him about two years of work.
Last fall, the Cussons outlined their plans for a downtown family entertainment center to the planning board. Paul Cusson reported the building has approximately 20,000 square feet of space on three floors.
The pair said they would develop the center in three phases. The first phase would be to build an 18-hole mini-golf course on the ground floor with a small snack bar and an area for birthday and other parties. Paul Cusson said they initially hoped to be ready to open the mini-golf course this fall. But he said now they are looking at opening the mini golf course next year.
The second phase will focus on the basement level. Cusson said he plans to add a variety of entertainment activities there geared toward younger kids. He said the possibilities include pool and ping-pong tables, a ball pit, sandbox with remote control toys, a craft area, bumper cars, a shallow pool with remote controlled boats and a large screen with seating for up to a dozen kids for movie options. What you won’t find are video games – Cusson told the planning board he wants to promote physical activities. The final phase would tackle the second floor, where Cusson is considering a climbing wall among other possibilities.