A bold path to a bright new light

The Avalon Theatre in downtown Grand Junction, as shown in an architectural rendition, could look something like this after a $16 million proposition to turn the historic venue into a modern performing arts center. The Downtown Development Authority already has decided to bond for $3 million toward the project, which could help the Avalon draw bigger shows.

The historic Avalon Theatre finds itself at the beginning of a bold new path.

After years of study and discussion, analysis and dissection, and fits and false starts about the future of the historically rooted theater, the momentum is building to bring the once-thriving cultural center back to life at the corner of Seventh and Main streets.

That’s where the Avalon Foundation envisions a modern cornerstone of culture, performance and economic development in the form of a fully renovated and ambitiously expanded theater.

Former Daily Sentinel publisher Walter Walker made real his dream — creating a world-class cultural draw and venue for the day’s greatest performers — back in 1923.

The foundation’s Avalon Cornerstone Project aims to bring it back to that lofty level, but with a modern, multi-functional twist.

It’s a multiphase fundraising and development plan, and the first critical phase is taking shape now.

Different from efforts past, today the financial pump is primed for at least the first phase of the project — $3.1 million committed by the city of Grand Junction, $3 million promised by the city’s Downtown Development Authority, and about $1.6 million expected to be raised by the Avalon Foundation by May. So far, the Foundation has topped the $1 million mark in fundraising.

The first phase is characterized by necessity — renovating the aging obsolescence of the Avalon’s infrastructure and amenities.

Yet also included in the first phase are preparations for an expansion beyond the theater’s current footprint — setting the stage, so to speak, for the community to coalesce and drive the project as far ahead as it sees fit.

That’s the difference this time around with the Avalon. Architects have come up with designs to renovate the current facilities — a critical need — but have also taken their designs many steps beyond.

Envisioned beyond new seating and additional capacity is a full stage and stage house expansion, the addition of a true multipurpose room and cinema space, expanded concession areas for patrons and a new roof terrace for special events with 360-degree views from Colorado National Monument to the Bookcliffs to Grand Mesa.

Those extras, and the comprehensive vision, are what makes the plan so bold.

The Avalon Cornerstone Project has the task of raising the capital for what will become the new Avalon Theatre. The first phase — a renovation of the current space, along with a preview of the possibilities to come — is nearly set.

The city of Grand Junction recently approved a construction timeline for the project, starting with the first phase, which will go out to bid on March 2. Construction should start in May.

But beyond the first phase, how far the community wants to take the Avalon into the future will largely be up to the community itself.

“You don’t have a real project until you have a real well-thought-out design — that provides for all this potential and still can be phased, and a source of funds,” said DDA Executive Director Harry Weiss.

“Once we’ve taken care of the basics, and the basic operating plan, how much more does the community want to make of this facility?” Weiss wondered.


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