Basalt group seeks arts-civic center
October 29, 2014
Proponents of an arts and civic center in Basalt hope to seize an opportunity to get the town government and school district working together to pursue a shared facility.
Paulina Vander Noordaa and Mary Holly, both of Basalt, represent a group of residents promoting construction of a facility that includes a 600-seat theater. The group's conceptual plan also includes space to exhibit and work on paintings, ceramics and sculpture. The civic space would include town government offices and meeting space available for community events and rental for private events.
The timing is perfect to pursue the center, Vander Noordaa said, because the school district is working on its facilities master plan and the Basalt town government is charting uses for downtown properties, including vacant land at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park.
The school district's current master plan contemplates the construction of a theater on the high school campus, on the southern outskirts of town, according to Holly. But school district officials said they would consider sharing the cost of an off-campus facility as long as the school has priority for its plays, band concerts and other events, she said. Moving the theater off campus would allow community events that serve alcohol.
“Think of what would happen if it was developed at Basalt High School.”
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The facility also must be within walking distance of the middle and elementary schools to earn the district's support, according to Vander Noordaa. The group feels that a civic and arts center makes more sense in or near downtown rather than at the high school, which would require most people to drive to attend events.
The idea is in its infancy, so there is no estimate on the cost or how to provide the immense amount of parking necessary for a facility of that type. One concept is to acquire a portion of the former Pan and Fork land and construct the arts-civic center and parking on a site that would spill into the existing Lions Park. That would eliminate a short stretch of Two Rivers Road and make Midland Spur the primary east-west route.
Vander Noordaa and Holly presented the idea to Basalt's Downtown Area Advisory Committee on Oct. 23 in hopes that the idea of the center would gain a foothold. The advisory committee of 10 residents was appointed by the Town Council to come up with a proposal on how the Pan and Fork site and other downtown properties should be used. The ultimate goal is to spur revitalization.
The center could be a vital piece for revitalizing downtown and providing the school district with a first-rate theater, Holly said. Vander Noordaa added that a theater with as many as 600 seats would attract performances by organizations such as the Aspen Music School, the Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet, Aspen Institute and others.
Holly said the idea of a downtown center also is attractive from a planning perspective.
"Think of what would happen if it was developed at Basalt High School," she said. One result would be people bypassing downtown.
Members of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee seemed interested in considering the center further, but no pledges were made.
Committee member Chris Touchette questioned how big of a role a center could play in revitalizing downtown.
"My perspective is it's not Broadway, so there's not a show every night," he said.
Vander Noordaa countered that arts organizations are in dire need of space and the school desperately needs a state-of-the-art facility.
"You'd get a lot of use by the school — a ton," she said, adding that lots of events would mean lots of people stopping in downtown businesses.
The concept is at least on the table now. The Downtown Area Advisory Committee will meet Thursdays through the end of the year to craft a recommended plan to give to the Town Council.