The renovation plans for a small performing arts venue in downtown Cortez are finally coming together. Public radio station KSJD 91.5 has been pushing the completion of an arts space in the building adjacent to the radio's broadcasting offices for almost five years.
According to Jeff Pope, executive director of KSJD, pending approval from the Colorado State Historical Fund, demolition of the building facade and interior framing will begin mid-March. The arrival of a second performing arts center in downtown Cortez is exciting for Pope, who has been on the Cornerstone Committee since beginning.
"The impetus for the venue came about four or five years ago with the city's comprehensive plan," Pope explained. "The key findings were, people wanted a performing arts space that could be used all year long."
When the project was assumed to be on schedule, it was concluded the venue would be ready to open in October 2012. However, contracting bids have proved to be more costly than anticipated. What was thought to be a $1.4 million project has turned into $1.5 million. The committee had to regroup and raise more money than expected. Most of the money for Cornerstone came from the historical fund and other state grants, but $200,000 was donated to the project by local supporters.
The beginning phase of construction, done by local contractors Kennebec Construction Inc., will transform the building's front to resemble the original structure of the Montezuma Valley National Bank circa 1910.
"The best thing about this process so far has been meeting all these people who care about the historical life of this building," Pope said.
The beginning efforts will be completed this summer and the entire project should be finished in December.
The venue will be used for a variety of arts purposes such as; live music, community theater, cinema, dance and lectures. The 2,000-square foot space, including the balcony, is expected to seat 125 people. The stage will lead into the back of the two buildings, connecting actors and patrons to restrooms, an intermission and a reception area that will be located in the basement.
The altered basement may be used by KSJD for conferences or other meetings and also houses a century old, original bank vault that will remain intact and used for storage. Also unique to the venue will be the ability to broadcast any of the events held there. Music, theater and lectures can be aired live for the public through KSJD.
The Millenium Center for the Performing Arts is located at 20 W. Main St. Denise Westbrook, owner and instructor of Come Dance Tonight, will open a performing arts venue for balls, parties, galleries and more. Her space will fit more than 300 people and will focus on larger events.
"This is an exciting time. Within the next year there will be two performing spaces in downtown Cortez," Pope said. "We are orienting more of a listening room for an intimate experience (as opposed to the Millenium Center). The spaces are different from one another so hopefully we can play off of each other."
Pope is ready for the project to go forward. Other committee members, Marianne Mate, Chuck McAfee and Kristine Nunn, are also looking forward to the idea coming to fruition. Mate, fundraising chair for Cornerstone, is leading the campaign.
"The amount of money contributed locally was significant," she said happily. "We had a person walk in the door and give us a jar full of pennies because that's all they had."
Pope and Mate know the support and anticipation from the community is great. Now that construction is slated to begin, they can focus on becoming part of the downtown energy within the arts community. Mate summed up the buzz and excitement that the center will create with one phrase, "a rising tide lifts all boats."
For more information on the new arts space or to make a contribution, contact Jeff Pope at 564-9727.