Next big thing at Willits: a performing arts campus no later than 2022 |

Next big thing at Willits: a performing arts campus no later than 2022

Plans for The Arts Campus at Willits would include a large performance venue, smaller lecture/movie theater and a lawn that could host events.
Courtesy photo |

Basalt will have a performing-arts center operating in Willits Town Center by July 2022 if all goes as planned.

The Town Council voted 6-0 Tuesday to grant a 99-year lease to The Arts Campus at Willits, or TACAW, a nonprofit organization promoting the concept. The town will lease three-quarters of an acre for the facility. The deal requires a second reading and a public hearing June 13 before it’s finalized.

Assuming it sails through the second reading, TACAW must have land use approvals for a facility by July 1, 2018. It must obtain a building permit for the first phase and a letter of credit from a bank by July 1, 2020.

A final performance requirement is for TACAW to complete construction by July 1, 2022.

The lease allows the council to extend deadlines if progress is being made — or declare the lease breached without progress.

“Within five years we should get something from this and if we don’t, we move on,” Mayor Pro Tem Gary Tennenbaum said. He ran the meeting because Mayor Jacque Whitsitt was out of town.

TACAW officials said they had no problem with the performance deadlines.

“We’re going to try to beat them in any case,” said Jody Edwards, attorney for the arts center proponents.

“TACAW anticipates providing a venue for film, music, education, culinary arts, performing arts and special events at the arts center,” according to the lease.

The arts campus would cover a total of 2.3 acres. Details will emerge during the land-use process about the size and design. The conceptual plan for the arts campus features a one-story building with translucent glass walls. It would feature a 350-seat performance venue with smaller lecture and movie venues and an industrial kitchen.

Arts center proponents plan to host as many as 190 events annually.

The council required an independent study of the proposal. That study, unveiled last month, said the campus is “reasonably feasible and viable” but it failed to answer the vital question of whether the midvalley market can support the facility.

Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer said she wanted to put aside the performance deadlines to make sure TACAW has enough time to figure out public demand and its financial capabilities before plowing ahead with a facility.

But TACAW Managing Director Ryan Honey said a temporary, 2,500-square-foot performing-arts center at Willits would help determine demand. The facility, dubbed “The Temporary,” will open Aug. 1 in the ground floor of the Valley View Medical building, Honey said.

Experiences there will help form the programming for the permanent structure but not the design.

“What we’ve proposed is a building that’s as small as it could be,” Honey said.

Schwoerer supported the lease despite her reservations.

TACAW officials said the 99-year lease would boost fundraising efforts.