Avalon Theater renovation proposal: $13 million

The Avalon Theater at 645 Main St. could become both a home for the Grand Junction Symphony and a multiuse facility, according to a design firm hired by the symphony and the Downtown Development Authority



The Avalon Theatre could get a $13 million makeover if the city of Grand Junction, Downtown Development Authority, Grand Junction Symphony and possibly other stakeholders find a way to fund renovation plans suggested by a national design firm.

The DDA and the symphony split a $75,000 bill to hire design firm Westlake Reed & Leskosky to create a master plan for the theater at 645 Main St. The firm began evaluating the theater’s potential in January and presented results of its study Tuesday morning to a crowd of about two dozen citizens and stakeholders at the Avalon.

Debbie Kovalik, executive director of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau, said the goal of the study is twofold: discern the probability of the symphony making the Avalon its new home and determine the best way the theater could remain and expand as a multiuse facility.

Paul Westlake, principal-in-charge for Westlake Reed & Leskosky, said both options are possible, but at a price. Westlake suggested a three-phase project to make the theater a viable hot spot for up to 172 days or nights of rehearsals or performances a year, with the potential to draw up to 72,796 audience members.

The first phase, which would cost about $7.5 million, would include replacing all seating in the Avalon, expanding storage and dressing-room areas, adding an orchestra pit, updating lighting, heating and cooling systems, gutting the ceiling to expose the roof and beams and doing other projects that would improve acoustics.

For a little more than $3 million, the second phase would expand the lobby, bathrooms and box office, upgrade lighting and construct a multipurpose room. The third phase, which would cost more than $1 million, plus the cost of enough peripheral work to bring total spending to $13 million, would include equipping the multipurpose room, which would be east of the main theater, to have upholstered seating, theatrical wiring, a dimming system and sound-isolation technology. Westlake said the room could be used for showing movies and accommodating smaller-scale productions.

Westlake said he split the project into three phases so that local groups could get funding together in smaller amounts over time. He said the project would likely cost less if it could be paid for sooner.

DDA Executive Director Heidi Hoffman Ham said the next few weeks will be spent informing people about the study’s findings. The symphony board heard the findings Monday, and the Grand Junction City Council should hear the results in mid-July. Funding possibilities might be discussed after that time, Ham said.

“The next stage will be weighing the benefits of renovation against the cost,” she said.

If the renovations are deemed worthy of the cost, funding possibilities could range from long-term fundraising to getting money from local interests and municipalities, she said.

Michael Schwerin, executive director of the Grand Junction Symphony, said he would like to move performances from the Grand Junction High School auditorium to the Avalon if possible. Schwerin said he is not looking for an exclusive venue for the symphony because the symphony doesn’t need a full-time home.

“Over the next four weeks, we’ll decide if this is the right opportunity for us,” he said.


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