City to help orchestra pay for $14.5 million Avalon upgrade

It was music to the ears of Grand Junction City Council members that the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra wants a permanent home at the Avalon Theatre, and the city is committed to spending millions of dollars in renovations.

The plan, for the symphony to raise $14.5 million in a capital campaign with one-third buy-in from the city, was approved 6-0 by council members on Monday night. Council member Tom Kenyon was absent.

“I’m so excited, I can’t wait to say yes to this,” Council member Bruce Hill said. “Are you kidding me? Did you think we’d say no to this?”

The Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra has been performing from the Grand Junction High School Auditorium, but symphony officials have determined that the space is not suitable in the long term.

At the Avalon, the project’s first phase is expected to cost $7.5 million. The city’s portion will come from the Downtown Development Authority budget. While the symphony will be the Avalon’s main tenant, the renovations should attract other kinds of performances. The city will continue operations.

Plans call for bolstered acoustics, new seating and making seating at the historic theatre comply with specifications for those with disabilities.

First phase renovations are expected to be completed within a year.

A second phase details additional space for loading and dressing rooms off the building’s east side. It will also include bathrooms on all levels and expanded space for concessions. A third phase will include building onto the east end multipurpose room and improving conditions for performers.

Karen Hildebrandt, president of the board of the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, said the project is being kicked off now for a number of reasons. Supporters of the symphony and community members feel this is a high priority, she said.

The timing is good because no other large, local capital campaigns currently are under way and, although the economy is sputtering, philanthropic financial support for performing arts remains robust, she said.

“We, the symphony, are willing to take the lead to make this possible,” she said.

In other news:

Council members voted 5-1 to ratify a contract for Sorter Construction to complete the second phase of the downtown uplift project. It would include replacing sewer lines and updating the cement work in the 400, 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street.

Council member Sam Susuras cast the dissenting vote.

Sorter’s bid was the lowest at $2.88 million. FCI Constructors, which completed the first phase of the project, the 100, 200 and 300 blocks, came in at $2.95 million.

Members of the Downtown Development Authority and other downtown business owners objected to Sorter. Grand Junction city planning staff always recommend council members accept the lowest qualified bid on construction projects, but as a home rule city, council members are not bound to accept the lowest bid.


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