By Alissa Johnson
The Biery-Witt Center is a few steps closer to reality this holiday season, as fundraising continues to zero in on the final estimated $27 million project value and as the Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center (MCBPAC) board of directors has selected an architectural firm.
Last week, the board authorized contract negotiations with its preferred firm, DLR|WRL, and expects to begin the design process in earnest this January.
The selection of the Denver-based firm comes after an extensive review process. Several firms responded to a request for proposals last fall; the MCBPAC’s design committee narrowed those down to three, inviting them to participate in interviews and present a preliminary concept for the facility. DLR|WRL rose to the top.
“The design committee made the recommendation to the board to select DLR|WRL for a number of reasons,” Angela Diaz, marketing and development director, said. She noted that they have a robust team that complements the previously hired consultants and has a strong background in designing facilities for performing arts as well as conferences and conventions.
“The other important part was that they truly valued our business plan and they have an emphasis on ensuring the facility would be financially sustainable. They also want to dig in and learn more about the programming and are especially interested in the frequency of the events, the types of events, and the number of attendees. They hit all the checkmarks,” Diaz said.
These factors were particularly important to the board given the way that the vision for the Biery-Witt Center has evolved into a facility that fits into a campus-like approach. The goal is to integrate the base area of Mt. Crested Butte and the community into a plan for hosting conventions, conferences, events and performances in addition to being a home for the Crested Butte Music Festival.
“We think this facility is going to be key to a renaissance for Mt. Crested Butte that will be a great complement to Crested Butte,” executive director Woody Sherwood explained last summer.
Sherwood sees the potential to enhance the whole north end of the Gunnison Valley, spreading out the impact of things like summer tourism by offering visitors more options for lunch and other activities in addition to what they would typically find on Elk Avenue. DLR|WRL really understood that vision.
“We’re really pleased with the way the firms all responded to the [request for proposals], but DLR|WRL really knocked it out of the park,” Sherwood said this week.
Once contract negotiations are finalized, the board of directors’ design committee and staff plan to get together with the firm as early as January 3 to begin work. The hope is to come out of that two-day meeting with a clear idea of where to place the facility on the property, which is north of the Grand Lodge and parking structure, and the main elements to be included in conceptual designs.
“We’re hoping they will have a conceptual design concept for us to present to the board by early February,” Sherwood said. If all goes as planned, the goal is to have a schematic design by the end of March, where the overall look and feel of the facility is coming into shape, the scale of the building is developed and 90 percent to 95 percent of construction costing is complete.
The final push for fundraising will also continue as the design process moves forward. According to Sherwood, the anticipated construction cost is $16 million plus approximately $3.2 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment. With land value and other related costs, the total project value is approximately $27 million, and current fundraising has generated just over $25 million to date.
“We feel that right now we’re about on track for where we should be,” Sherwood said, noting that the architectural process will reinforce those efforts. It will not only help confirm the project cost, but as the building’s design is developed, potential donors will be able to see and feel what the facility will look like. That will, in turn, help them envision its potential impact on the community that much more clearly.
“We have a very supportive donor base that has come with us this far, and we want to show them more about what it’s going to look like,” Sherwood said.
In addition to fundraising, the organization has also been updating its application for funding through a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development program. As Sherwood explained, a majority of the project is being funded through the Downtown Development Authority and other initiatives by the town of Mt. Crested Butte. That funding will be spread out over the next 25 to 30 years, and securing financing monetizes that cash flow.
As part of that process, the One Valley Prosperity Project and the town of Mt. Crested Butte have provided letters in support of the application, speaking to the compatibility of the project with overall planning for the entire community.
“The town of Mt. Crested Butte’s support is pivotal to our success. We are extremely grateful for their tremendous contribution to this project and for their shared vision of what this facility can do for our valley. It is very exciting to partner together to deliver a facility that will serve as a community gathering center, an economic catalyst, and a place for education, performing arts, events, wedding, conferences, and more,” said Tom Biery, co-president and chair of the MCBPAC design committee.
The forward momentum on all three fronts—fundraising, selection of the architectural firm, and reengaging the USDA—has made for a lot of energy and excitement among the center’s board of directors and staff.
“Overall, the board of directors, design committee and organization are definitely feeling the excitement growing. It was really inspiring to see those early visuals and presentations and how the multi-functioning program is envisioned to come together,” Diaz said.