Theater renovation project falls $1.5M short of fundraising goal
A $1.5 million funding shortfall by the Avalon Theatre Foundation for the first phase to renovate Grand Junction’s downtown historic theater has the city scrambling to alter its construction timeline.
Avalon Theatre Board Development Director Robin Brown told Grand Junction City Councilors at a workshop Monday that funds expected from the biggest potential donors have, so far, been grossly overestimated.
For example, foundation members thought they could count on raising $1 million from the city’s largest banks, but those donations have only totaled $35,000 to date. And, the results of two large grant requests won’t be known until later this spring, although construction was slated to begin in May.
“There is no way to spin that,” Brown told councilors about expected donations from banks. “It did not work. We came up real short on that.”
Brown said the board believes it can make up the difference because a few of its fundraising events are occurring this month, and money from the public is starting to roll in.
To date, the foundation has raised nearly $810,000, but the bulk of those dollars, or almost $473,000, are in committed pledges. After spending $237,000 of its money on the design process, the foundation has $100,000 cash on hand, Brown reported Monday.
Councilors said they are hesitant to start construction until all the money needed is available.
“I don’t think we can have a contract for more money than we have in the bank,” Councilor Tom Kenyon said.
The project’s lowest bidder, FCI Constructors, came in at more than anticipated, $7.2 million. Including all the other costs, the entire first phase is expected to cost $8.5 million, the city estimated. The city has committed $3.1 million, and the Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority has committed $3 million.
In total, there is a $2.1 million shortfall on the project’s first phase, the city reported.
In an effort to mitigate costs, councilors decided they would end their contract with the project’s architect, Westlake Reed. The city has purchased the plans and will have city staff do some of the architectural consulting work. Costs for consulting fees from the architect are estimated at $1.3 million, which may now be a potential savings.
Also, city staff was directed to work with FCI and ask for a total 120-day extension to accept the bid.
Construction bids or estimates of how much work will cost typically are good for 60 days.
In the interim, the city will work to upgrade some features at the Avalon, including a sprinkler system and replacing the aging chairs.
Brown said one reason fundraising is going slowly is because people do not believe the project will ever get going. Starting construction would encourage more donations, she said.
“I hear every single day, ‘Is that going to happen?’ ” Brown said. “People are holding onto their pocketbooks until they see it happen.”