Santa arrives early for Avalon
Grand Valley residents should be able to visualize it now — a fully updated and modern Avalon Theatre that is accessible to everyone. Like an early Christmas present, the city of Grand Junction learned on Wednesday it received a $1 million grant from the state Department of Local Affairs for the theater rehabilitation project.
Another present arrived on Wednesday, a $110,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to benefit the Avalon.
While the Avalon Theatre Foundation still is fundraising for amenities in the project’s initial and future phases, the grants help to bridge the funding gap for the first phase, an $8.2 million project.
“I’m ecstatic,” Grand Junction city councilor Jim Doody said. “It’s kind of like they delivered the tiara to the princess of Main Street.”
Grand Junction officials were hopeful about getting the grant, but were hesitant to count on receiving any money considering the competitive process. Without the grant, city councilors would likely have had to backfill the remaining dollars from reserve funds or rely on private funding.
The Wednesday announcement was a sigh of relief for councilors and leaders.
“It’s huge because we didn’t think we’d get the grant’s full amount,” said Robin Brown, development director of the fundraising effort, the Avalon Cornerstone Project. “It takes it from being a really tough fundraising project to being doable.”
Brown said the committee is raising an additional $500,000 for phase one, to cover costs for some necessities such as stage curtains and a new marquee. Fundraising has netted more than $1 million to date, about $500,000 of which includes pledges.
Those who follow the progress at the corner of Main and Seventh streets might see masons creating a stone foundation. Soon, crews will begin installing steel to create a frame for the new area.
“It has a lot of historic character but the new wing is going to be a knockout,” Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein said. “There will be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) restrooms, an expanded elevator — just a really bright exterior.”
Renovations also include adding additional seats to bring the total to 1,000, updating the projection capabilities to digital, and adding a fire suppression system.
“We see it as an economic development driver,” Boeschenstein said. “It’s making Grand Junction a regional center for performing arts.”
Reeves Brown, DOLA executive director, said the Avalon project won the grant for several reasons, including the structure’s historic nature, its location anchoring the east end of Main Street and because of the collaboration among agencies to front money for the project.
“If the city would allow that building to be blighted it would have huge impacts,” Brown said.
DOLA grants often originate as money collected from energy companies to defer the impacts of development on communities. Brown said one goal of DOLA is to create economic development opportunities aside from energy development.
“The DOLA committee is interested in a diversified economy so that (communities) don’t become too dependent on energy,” he said.
For the Avalon’s first phase, Grand Junction’s Downtown Development Authority pitched in $3 million; the city of Grand Junction chipped in $3.1 million and the Avalon Theatre Foundation Board is responsible for $1.1 million. The city approved a $7.6 million project, and the DOLA grant helps get the project to the $8.2 million mark.