BOZAR appears comfortable with a big building
by Mark Reaman
It appears that upon first glance the Crested Butte Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) members are relatively comfortable with a new Center for the Arts coming in at the 35,000 to 38,000 square-foot range—more than four times the size of the current Center, which is just under 8,000 square feet, not including the outdoor stage.
While understanding that the design proposed by the Center’s architectural and design team was very conceptual, the board applauded the idea of essentially dividing it into two buildings connected by a “spine” to break up the massing of the project. They also liked the idea of utilizing the natural slope between Sixth and Seventh Street to soften the height issue.
BOZAR held a work session on Tuesday, November 17 and took two hours of public comment on the proposal. On Wednesday, BOZAR board members and the architects deliberated over how to incorporate the suggestions.
BOZAR members really liked the two-building idea and were comfortable with the proposal of constructing a Center for the Arts that would be about 35,000 total square feet. They appreciated the idea of digging down the front so the Sixth Street entrance would lead into the second floor of the building.
They instructed the designers to break up some of the big walls that come with a big building but overall, the board did not balk at size. “This is a public building, a public amenity and it should reflect that,” said BOZAR chairperson Liz Sawyer. “The design elements should be different from, say, Anthracite Place, that is housing.”
While the design team presented various options for the roofing, it appears that aspect of the building is still in flux.
Playground conciliation and parking issues
Lead architect Nestor Bottino said the team would combine the two primary playground elements near the Center and hopefully place them on the south side of the building to take advantage of the sun. He was reluctant to move the smaller, back building to the north because he felt it would degrade the idea of the “spine” connecting the primary theater building with the auxiliary building close to Seventh Street. That smaller structure is intended to house dance studios and visual arts spaces. But he didn’t rule out that shift. “We will get those playgrounds together,” he said. “We heard how important that was.”
Parking remains a conundrum. Currently, the majority of the parking is proposed to be paved, striped, head-in parking on the west side of Seventh Street. That has neighbors worried about safety of the local children and concerned that Seventh Street will turn into a primary thoroughfare. It was suggested that the empty lot across from the Center on Sixth Street be purchased but that would likely add another seven figures to the project. “No one wants to see a huge parking lot in the park,” said town building and zoning director Bob Gillie. “We all have to put on our best thinking caps and work out the best solution we can.”
Gillie suggested the Center team come back with a narrative that explains all the components of their traffic and parking plan, including transit access, pedestrian connectivity, and parking locations.
Size issues: Who gets what and why
One big hurdle remains the size of the building and what goes into it. At one point, after requests from potential user groups, the Center proposal grew to well over 42,000 square feet. That received pushback from the town and raised a funding flag for the Center since it would add significant cost to the building. So the Center’s board of directors made some “hard decisions” two weeks ago, cutting back on space allocated to user groups and eliminating the Trailhead Children’s Museum (originally allocated 3,500 square feet) from the building. This brought the project back to about 35,000 square feet.
“The biggest element and one that wasn’t cut back was the theater,” explained Center executive director Jenny Birnie. “We are focused on our core programs that will financially sustain the Center long-term, including the performance element and the art studio.”
The square footage breakdown is in flux and numbers vary depending on which plan is current, but it essentially breaks down as follows:
Public space including the lobby, a gallery, restrooms, retail space, the bar and coatroom comes in at 6,990 square feet, compared to the current 1,744.
The performance space is the largest part of the building with the 260-seat theater, indoor and outdoor stages, set shop, dressing rooms, storage areas, green room and music room, coming in at about 10,000 square feet.
Office space for Center staff, the Crested Butte Film Festival and Crested Butte Arts Festival, along with some storage space, comes in at 1,390 square feet.
The visual arts will get a clay studio with a kiln room, a couple of visual arts classrooms, storage and an office, at 2,470 square feet.
The Crested Butte School of Dance is in line to get 2,500 square feet in dance studios, changing rooms and an office. The Aerial Dance Studio with the Crested Butte Dance Collective has a 1,000-square-foot studio in the proposal.
Multiuse areas such as a board room (650 square feet that seats 22 people), a multipurpose room (1,000 square feet), a catering/teaching kitchen (500 square feet) and general storage areas comes to another 2,500 square feet.
The mechanical elements and circulation space within the building add 5,528 square feet.
That adds up to approximately 38,730 total square feet—about 27,300 more square feet than the 11,434 being used around town today for the same programs.
Program growth driving the requests
One argument for a significantly bigger building made at the public comment work session was that all of the programs are growing so quickly that it would be counterproductive to not build enough space to handle future needs.
According to the Center’s statistics, there has been a 75 percent increase in attendance at Center for the Arts events in the past 10 years. The School of Dance currently uses five spaces around town and serves 350 students a year. The productions sell out and they expect student population to grow to 420 students a year and total attendance at performances to rise to 3,200 people, up from 2,300 people. The Dance Collective expects similar growth, with classes already tripling since 2010.
The Art Studio of the Center for the Arts anticipates even larger growth. While current annual attendance is 1,200 people, they are anticipating 4,950 with the larger space of 2,470 square feet, up from 700 square feet. If given room to expand, the Trailhead expects to double its attendance, from 6,000 to 12,000 people.
The Center’s theater is the Big Kahuna in the equation. While the summer season has tripled in the last three years, winter has doubled. They are expecting to go from 18,000 attendees to 47,800.
“Program growth and economics are all playing a role in what we are proposing to the town and how it is being designed,” said Birnie. “We understand the BOZAR review is thorough and we are doing what we can to accommodate everyone. This is a plan that is in the early stages so things are changing all the time. We hope to have a formal application early in 2016.”