Best use for Avalon may be 
as storage area for recycled brick

Construction first, business later. That’s what came to mind after last week’s Grand Junction City Council meeting and the campaign to fire the city money cannon at the “problem” of the Avalon Theatre being dilapidated.

People have put in a lot of work, but the project doesn’t seem to be yet to a place to move ahead with the size of the expenditure needed.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some well-meaning folks who would like to see the theater restored or that downtown business owners shouldn’t have every quiver to their bows to bring people to the area. It just means fixing up a structure that has been losing the battle of relevancy since vaudeville days may be a poor way to spend money.

If it’s entertainment folks are interested in or concern about empty business space downtown, there’s a perfectly good venue up for sale in the old Banisters furniture building, now called Boomers. It’s maybe 116 years old and could simply be renamed something like, Avalon 2 – Electric Boogaloo. It has the boxlike charm of the Avalon but comes complete with functional bathrooms and air handling equipment.

Some more ideas to fill up empty spaces: a macramé shop (we can bring the lost art back), a shop selling only kites (it’s for the children) and a free-trade hammock store. All of these can be successful so long as they are taxpayer-supported — if you call that successful.

Economics is a harsh mistress, and it’s especially a harpy when applied to an entertainment venue that’s about as multifunctional as a high-wheeled bicycle.

The truth is that not every old building is worth saving. If they were, people would still be staying in the attractive Lacourt Motor Lodge and shopping at Woolworth’s.

There is no denying that downtown areas like Grand Junction’s have a tough time as shopping trends change. Even now, retail analysts believe the large indoor mall may become something of an anachronism as large park-and-shop areas like the Rimrock Plaza and others seem to be appealing more to the tastes of customers who like the idea of convenient parking near the stores they want to frequent. Consumers see this as a more efficient use of their time than trooping through a massive building.

If the city really wanted to help downtown businesses, it would pull out most of the parking meters. Nothing runs off a customer like returning to his or her vehicle after a leisurely trip downtown to find a $15 parking ticket zealously planted on the windshield by a bureaucrat in an electric car.

City Councilor Marty Chazen upset some folks by asking for evidence that a revamped Avalon could realistically return some funds over immediate costs. This would at least pay for maintenance. This is necessary since, no matter how much you rehab old buildings, parts of them stay old and eventually have to be replaced.

It shouldn’t be too much to ask to have some realistic projection that whatever events are conducted in the building would at least generate revenue sufficient to cover the wear and tear sustained.

No matter how many times people misquote the movie, “Field of Dreams,” just building something doesn’t make people come, not even Kevin Costner’s movie dad.

So far, it’s hard to get past the idea that the best use for the Avalon building is as a vertical storage area for recycled brick. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some ideas for the property that couldn’t be viable but probably involve tearing the building down, putting up a new structure and buying the land to the east for a parking lot. They tore down the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and saved a piece of the floor to put in a new building, so it can be done.

I want to see a thriving downtown, but I’m not sure this project is the one to do the trick. There is only so much money in the kitty, so we need to be sure this project has a reasonable shot at success.

Rick Wagner writes more about politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.

COMMENTS

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The original Grand Old Opry is now known as the Ryman, and is a thriving venue in Nashville.  A piece of the floor was removed to be placed in the mall-like Opryland of today, but the Ryman still stands and it took a concerted community effort to rehabilitate it in the 90s.  Rick again gets the history totally wrong…

Peter, you expect an ambulance chaser to get history right? How quaint!











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