Council reluctant to fund Avalon, stalls for more time

More talks are on tap before Grand Junction city councilors decide whether they will fund their previously promised $3 million toward renovations at the Avalon Theatre.

However, in a somewhat unusual move, councilors who indicated at a June 5 meeting that they weren’t comfortable spending money on the facility and needed 10 more days to consider it on Tuesday said they didn’t want to invest in a partial remodel that wouldn’t do justice to the ailing venue.

Councilors plan to meet again Friday, a day after Downtown Development Authority board members meet and are asked whether they, too, will chip in half of up to $1.5 million for a more complete renovation. The DDA already has dedicated $3 million to the theater for first-phase renovations.

“I’m not willing to piecemeal the Avalon again,” Councilor Phyllis Norris said. “I’m not comfortable doing alternative C.”

That option, a first phase of renovations for the historic building, costs $7.1 million and would only add bathrooms on both levels, an elevator and a small glass-encased staircase.

Spending up to $1.5 million more would include those improvements, a full lobby, a multipurpose room and a host of other amenities. There are a total of four construction options between the $7.1 million and the $8.6 million scenarios.

Councilors still are working off a bid from FCI Constructors, the scope of which has been reduced to save costs. The construction company previously agreed to prolong a timeline for the city to accept the bid to July 26.

Councilors challenged members of the Avalon Theatre Foundation Board Tuesday to come up with the additional $1.5 million to complete the original scope of the project. In general, councilors said, they are hesitant to take on the risk of accepting the construction bid with only reassurances that the fundraising committee can raise additional funds both for the project’s first phase and future renovations. “It could be that the city could be on the hook for this,” Councilor Marty Chazen said, a mantra several councilors have worried about.

More than one person on Tuesday likened the struggle between councilors willing to fund their $3 million contribution and a perceived shortfall of fundraising by the Avalon Theatre Foundation Board as a “chicken and egg” challenge.

The foundation has $150,000 cash on hand to dedicate to the renovation, but a total of $1.1 million in pledges and other monies is expected to be available to go toward the project. A total renovation project beyond the first phase has been estimated at $16 million.

“They say, ‘Well, is this ever going to happen?’ ” Avalon Theatre Foundation Chairman John Halvorson told councilors. “People want to know whether the city is behind it.”

“We have been more and more stifled as this wears on,” Halvorson said about the foundation’s ongoing fundraising efforts.


COMMENTS

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How could the city be responsible if a condition is other funds will be involved? I just don’t see how the city could be responsible beyond the terms of the commitment. What am I missing?

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