Kudos to the Mesa County commissioners for coming out in support of a tax-credit program that could help bolster a fundraising campaign for the historic Avalon Theatre.
The Avalon is an interesting community asset. It was acquired by the city of Grand Junction in 1994 in lieu of unpaid taxes. It could have been sold to a private owner, but a few visionaries recognized its potential as a publicly owned asset to help shape the kind of downtown we see today: vibrant, artsy, quaint and hip.
But city ownership has its drawbacks, too. Rehabilitating or maintaining the structure is often seen as competing with more important taxpayer needs. Plus, it's awkward to fundraise for something owned by the city. We're fortunate to have a private nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote, preserve and enhance the theater.
The Avalon Theatre Foundation partnered with the city to bring the theater up to code and give it a major facelift in 2014. But the $10 million project didn't cover every improvement needed to optimize the theatre's economic potential. It was always going to be up to the community to decide whether to keep investing in this project.
So far, the investment has led to bigger and better entertainment acts. Comedian David Chappelle is Exhibit A. The Avalon fosters the kind of cultural atmosphere appealing to the workforce we need to attract to this valley.
With support from the Mesa County Board of Commissioners and the Mesa County Enterprise Zone Committee, the foundation is applying to the Colorado Economic Development Commission to help encourage donations for about $300,000 in improvements to the downtown theater.
As the Sentinel's Charles Ashby reported in Tuesday's paper, the theater and foundation aren't relying on the state to pay for the improvements, which include a wraparound digital marquee, a rooftop canopy and blinds for the mezzanine.
Instead, they're engaged in a fundraising effort. The tax credits under the state's EZ Project Designation program are designed to help generate more donations.
If approved, donors would be able to claim special tax credits on their income tax filings. That state program was created to help spur more donations to charitable efforts located in enterprise zones, which are designed to revitalize economically distressed regions of the state.
The foundation's application for tax credits is formal recognition that The Avalon plays a role in economic development. That's pretty good validation for a theater that has been criticized for being a white elephant. In our view, it has delivered many community benefits at a reasonable cost to taxpayers as a private-public partnership.
Assuming the foundation will qualify for the tax credits, we hope Mesa County citizens will line up to take advantage of them and support the foundation's mission in the process.