Avalon ascending: Phase I fully funded

A $1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to the city of Grand Junction is important, but generally doesn’t result in front page news stories. Nor would such an inside-government grant typically produce responses such as “I’m ecstatic” or “It’s huge.” But that’s exactly what occurred — and with good reason — when the city learned Wednesday it had been approved for a $1 million grant to help with the completion of Phase I of the Avalon Theatre project.

Another important funding source, a $110,000 grant from the Gates Foundation for the Avalon, was also announced on Wednesday. Anyone who has been in downtown Grand Junction recently has likely seen the construction work taking place at the Avalon — work that will add space for additional seats, improve the stage area and technical systems for the theater, provide ADA-compatible restrooms and a new elevator and add a fire suppression system.

And regular readers of this newspaper are no doubt aware that funding for the $8.2 million project has been difficult and sometimes controversial. The Downtown Development Authority contributed $3 million, and the Avalon Theatre Foundation Board is raising $1.1 million. After much debate and initial reluctance, the Grand Junction City Council agreed to contribute $3.1 million from its reserve funds.

But that funding still left the project more than $1 million short of the money needed to complete the first phase. The money from the state and the Gates Foundation ensures there are enough funds to complete that phase. Meanwhile, the Avalon Theatre Foundation is continuing to work on raising an additional $500,000 to pay for some additional amenities in Phase I and to begin to stockpile funds for the second phase.

The money from the Department of Local Affairs, it should be noted, doesn’t come from taxpayer dollars. Rather, it is often from money collected from energy companies to help pay the cost of impacts of energy development on communities. Reeves Brown, director of the Department of Local Affairs, said providing money for the Avalon project made sense because of the theater’s historic nature and its economic importance in anchoring the east end of Main Street and also because of the collaboration of the variety of entities to provide most of the funding.

Moreover, Brown was certainly correct when he said that “if the city allowed that building to be blighted, it would have huge impacts.” Among other things, it would make the city’s downtown business district less attractive, less promising to other businesses and less inviting to people visiting downtown. With the improvements, the effect will be just the opposite.

For our part, we can only echo the words of Grand Junction City Councilor Jim Doody: We’re ecstatic.


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