Basalt commissions study to determine if Willits art center is feasible | AspenTimes.com

Basalt commissions study to determine if Willits art center is feasible

Basalt is taking steps to determine if an arts center will fly at Willits.

The Basalt Town Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve a contract with an independent consultant to perform an economic and feasibility study on a facility proposed by a citizen committee promoting The Arts Campus at Willits.

The town hired Arts Consulting Group’s Denver office after it placed a low bid among three firms for $19,190 and an estimated $2,000 in expenses.

The town will pay for the firm’s services using restricted revenue in a Real Estate Transfer Assessment at Willits rather than from the general funds. The contract calls for the Arts Consulting Group to return in six weeks with a study on The Arts Campus at Willits.

A group of artists, arts supporters and veterans of the local music scene have worked on the proposal for nearly five years. They want a permanent lease on a 2.3-acre parcel that was dedicated to the town for a civic use when Willits Town Center was approved.

The group, headed by architect Michael Lipkin, envisions a one-story building with a main performance venue with capacity for 350 people, a smaller lecture and movie hall, and an industrial kitchen. There would be an outdoor grass lawn and covered courtyard that could be used for events.

The Arts Campus at Willits hired a firm to perform a marketing study. The town wants an independent analysis of the arts campus’ construction and operating plans.

Councilman Bernie Grauer said the consultant will help the town determine “what are the probabilities of this plan succeeding.”

Now is a critical time for determining if the project will move ahead, he noted.

“We’ve given a substantial investment, $240,000 (for The Arts Campus at Willits’ administrative and startup costs), to get them here,” Grauer said. The council wants to determine by May whether to lease property. The town government also will consider helping with surrounding infrastructure.

A memo to the Town Council from its financial advisor, Bruce Kimmell of a company called Ehlers, said Arts Consulting Group will evaluate The Arts Campus at Willits’ developed business plan and financial projections and identify concerns or areas that require additional information.

“The town believes it is imperative that the selected consultant does not see its task as finding a ‘solution’ for the TACAW concept but instead focuses its energy on analyzing the prospective market feasibility and economic/budgetary performance of the TACAW proposal, as it currently exists,” said the solicitation for bids for the job.

The town government wants the information by March 14.

scondon@aspentimes.com