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Gunnison Country Times: Old Center Building Closed

December 18, 2020 | , | No Comments

The Town of Crested Butte has prohibited the use of the old Center for the Arts building until the arts organization makes changes to entrances. Sam Liebl

Old Center for the Arts building locked up

Subhead

Town staff cite code violations

The old Center for the Arts building has long been an architectural hodgepodge. A former coal dump and county public works garage, the Crested Butte community rallied to make it a beloved performance space in the 1980s.

The building has stayed busy through 2020 despite the amenities offered at the new, multimillion-dollar Center for the Arts building next door.

But the Town of Crested Butte this month put its foot down with regards to long-standing building code violations and on Dec. 4 closed the old Center building until egress structures are brought into compliance.

The Town of Crested Butte owns both the old building and the new building, but the Center for the Arts, a non-profit organization, is contractually obligated to make the structural improvements.

The Center completed a $20-million capital campaign and opened its new building last year. But as the Center has fundraised to pay off construction debt and has contended with diminished staffing and events revenue due to the pandemic, its punch list with the Town has gone uncompleted.

Town staff say their main concerns are safe entrances and exits from the old building.

The Center has been using two temporary structures to protect egress areas from snowshed: a lean-to in the courtyard on the old building’s north side and a small door entryway on the south side of the building facing the field where Alpenglow takes place. These structures are not approved by the town’s Board of Zoning and Architectural Review.

“The Town does own the structure, but under our lease agreement the Center is responsible for all construction and improvement costs under the 50-year agreement,” said Dara McDonald, Crested Butte town manager. This clause in the lease carried over into the renovation period. The Center is responsible for how their money is spent, and the Town does not have any control over that aspect, she said.

“The Town of Crested Butte in this context is acting as we do with any construction project. Which means putting life safety to the top of the priority list,” McDonald said.

Scott Palmer, executive director for the Center for the Arts, said the Town of Crested Butte is effectively their “landlord.”

“The town has asked us to address those temporary structures immediately, and the simple truth is we don’t have the money to do that. COVID has had a huge impact on everyone, us included, and our finances just don’t stretch to the removal of those two temporary structures and whatever else would make those entrances safe to the public.”

“We are simply trying to fill out the certificate of occupancy for the new Center and get through the punch list we created,” said Community Development Director Troy Russ. “It was really egress issues, how do the attendees get in and out of the old building? Life safety is essential to building safety.”

Palmer said the Center has completed most of the punch list items, such as moving wood, removal of temporary storage, replacing areas of gravel and moving garbage cans from the parking lot.

“The town has been very patient and has been talking to us since the building was completed a year ago,” he said.

When the Town closed the old building, Center staff called their renters, including the Crested Butte School of Dance, to organize where classes and workshops could be moved.

“It was challenging for us to turn it around so quickly,” Palmer said. “The schedules are done and events are moving forward as long as safe gatherings can continue.”

“We weren’t totally shocked since that building is in rough shape and we didn’t have a ton of classes in there, only four. There was potential it could’ve had a big impact, but we were able to accommodate and adjust!” said Crested Butte School of Dance Executive Director Nicole Blaser. “It would’ve been nice to have more notice for sure. I don’t know all the details and trust everyone is doing the best they can.”

For now, the old building remains closed until the Center fulfills the Town’s requirements.

“If the old building remains closed, we all get our vaccines, and then there is demand for the old building, we will cross that bridge when we get to it,” Palmer said.

(Morgan Schaefer can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or morgan@gunnisontimes.com.)

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