City may commit $1 million to Avalon project

Grand Junction City Council members will consider a resolution Wednesday to set aside $1 million for a renovation project at the city-owned Avalon Theatre.

The Downtown Development Authority has already committed to provide $3 million to the project if needed. The money will come from bonds paid off by tax increment financing.

DDA board member P.J. McGovern told council members during a council workshop Monday afternoon the $4 million combined commitment will give the Avalon Theatre Foundation some leverage to persuade members of the community to donate private funds to the initial $6 million to $7 million that will take care of the basic components of the project, such as building a three-story addition to the east of the current theater with a rooftop terrace, installing larger restrooms, fixing the theater’s aging heating and air conditioning system, and renovating and adding concessions areas.

The city projects an initial, private fundraising campaign will last through this December, construction may begin in April 2013, and the new addition to the theater may open as soon as April 2014. A total project cost of $14 million to $16 million is expected to cover the full renovation, including building a multipurpose room in the addition and improving staging elements in the theater.

“If the foundation can’t raise enough money, we’ll come back to the drawing board,” McGovern said.

Councilman Sam Susuras said he’s worried about the city earmarking $1 million for a project that may not be able to find enough private funding to become a reality. DDA board member Harry Griff told Susuras the project will not break ground before all of the money is raised.

“If the community doesn’t think it’s appropriate, then it won’t happen,” Griff said.

Susuras countered the city may own the Avalon, but has other commitments to meet, such as maintaining streets. He said the city was not asked for money in the original plan for renovating the Avalon but agreed in March to commit $110,800 for plans for the theater renovation design.

“Fundraising couldn’t even raise enough to pay an architect, now they want to raise $14 million, $16 million. I’ll believe that when I see that and I wish them well,” Susuras said.

Kathy Hall, a co-chair for the fundraising committee, said fundraisers need a commitment from the city as the theater’s owner in order to apply for certain grants. She said she is confident donors will appear and cited the example of fundraising successes that helped build a facility for Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado. If fundraising works for the Avalon, Susuras told Hall, “I’ll be the first in line to shake your hand.”

Fundraising for the Avalon project so far has garnered more than $500,000 in private donations and a $100,000 commitment from the Avalon Theatre Foundation Board.

Councilwoman Teresa Coons said the project will help bring in more revenue and aid local economic development.

“It would change the face of downtown,” she said.


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