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Crested Butte Center for the Arts and town close to agreements for summer construction start

Ceremonial groundbreaking scheduled for June 5

By Mark Reaman

The last details of the agreements between the Crested Butte Center for the Arts and the town of Crested Butte should be finalized before the next Town Council meeting on May 15 and if approved by both parties, movement toward construction could begin immediately. Construction trailers will likely be moved onto the site and construction fences erected that week. A ceremonial groundbreaking is slated for Monday June 5.

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Center representatives told the council at the May 1 meeting that since announcing construction would begin this summer, literally millions of dollars have been pledged to the project.

“We now have $11.1 million raised in cash or pledges and $3 million was raised just this last month since we announced we were breaking ground in June,” said Center for the Arts executive director Jenny Birnie. “We expect to have a successful summer of fundraising and the goal is to raise another $4 million.”

Birnie said there are still “naming” opportunities for various sections of the new facility, including the theater, dance and visual arts spaces. Rent for the “anchor” tenants of the facility will be kept low and comprise only about 6 percent of the budget but are still being negotiated. “We are at a point now where we can approach foundations to help close out the campaign,” she said.

In a half-hour presentation that included a six-minute video of a rendering of what a completed Center for the Arts campus would look like with both exterior and interior views, Birnie, board president Ed Schmidt and construction manager Crockett Farnell laid out the plans on how to pay for, and complete, the Center expansion.

Farnell said plenty of meetings have been held to answer the final questions about the construction with various regulatory groups. “The goal is to get the site cleared and ready for the June groundbreaking,” he said. “Ideally we want everything like the fencing and construction trailers out there before then. We plan to try to relocate some of the trees out there as well before we begin digging.”

Birnie again presented statistics that showed the growth of the Center from serving 8,000 patrons in 1985 to 47,500 in 2016. “The numbers grow every year,” she said. “We sold out 10 shows last winter. We’ve upped the ante to bring in bigger shows and people appreciate and support that.”

Schmidt said the Center working group and Town staff have been collaborating with town attorney John Belkin to finalize the wording and provisions of the financial “surety” in order to give the town a good comfort level. “We aren’t just asking you to trust us,” said Schmidt. “It will be contractually assured.”

When talking about the necessity for “surety” and bonding for the contractors who work on the project, Schmidt said details of the language were being worked out with Belkin. The town wants to make sure there are adequate funds in the neighborhood of 120 percent of the estimated cost to finish the project at any given time available through mechanisms such as letters of credit.

“The bottom line is that the building will be finished and the taxpayers of the town won’t be on the hook if for some reason the fundraising falls short,” summarized mayor Glenn Michel.

“Yes,” responded Schmidt. “We are working on the various options to achieve that. We will find a way to assure that the money to finish the project is available even if we don’t raise it.”

“Everyone appears to be on the same page with that issue and we are now working on language details before the May 15 meeting,” added town manager Dara MacDonald.

The council agreed to extend up to $750,000 in bridge financing if the Center needed it because of cash flow issues. Some of the pledges extend into 2022.

“It is reasonable to say we don’t want to use that money from the town but it could be needed,” said Schmidt. “We want the Center done as quickly as possible.”

The town also wants to make sure the Center can operate comfortably after the expansion. While not anticipating a major operating endowment, Birnie said a $350,000 operating reserve would be fundraised to give the Center some cushion. She added that the new theater space would be a good venue to hold larger fundraising events for the Center.

The Town Council will also waive a town code requirement that calls for major projects like this to go through a bidding process.

The council set two ordinances dealing with the Center project for public hearing at the May 15 meeting.

The council asked staff to get a copy of the video and link it to the town website so citizens can get a good idea of what the end result of the project will look like.

To see the video, visit this link.

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