An out-of-state real estate development group has vowed to preserve the historic Calkins Building and place it on the National Register of Historic Places.
Brian Burton, principal of the newly formed Calkins Redevelopment Corp., told Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 school officials this week that he and his partners understood the deep-rooted passion the community has for the former schoolhouse, and his team was committed to preserving the structure if it’s sold. The school district owns the building.
“This is a fantastic project,” said Burton.
Though no final-use plans were unveiled at the school board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 9, developers said the Calkins Building would include public space for some type of historical museum. The promise was encouraging to Linda Towle, chairperson of the Cortez Historic Preservation Board.
“The building is all boarded up, and we are very concerned about its future,” she said. “We want the building to be preserved.”
In an attempt to ease local concerns, Burton said developers would first seek to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a six-month process that could cost as much as $40,000.
“We’re fully prepared to move forward,” Burton told school leaders.
Burton is managing partner of a development firm in Kansas City, Mo. His Calkins Building partners include Becky Barber, a certified distressed property expert; Donald Rich, an authority on historical projects; Mike Marsh, an accountant who specializes in historic tax credits; and Elizabeth Rosin, a historical archaeologist.
School board members met behind closed doors for 40 minutes late Tuesday to discuss the proposed development offer. Afterward, they authorized Superintendent Alex Carter to examine the legal ramifications to enter into a contract with developers.
“The plan is exciting,” said board president Tim Lanier.
Board members agreed that the district didn’t have the funding to renovate the structure for future use, and selling the property would be advantageous.
“This group is willing to restore and save the building,” said board member Sherri Wright.
“This is an opportunity we should follow,” said board member Pete Montano.
In a recent community survey, 90 percent of respondents supported efforts to save the Calkins building. The survey further revealed community backing to sell the property to a private or public organization if the structure would be preserved.
Swedish immigrant Peter Baxstrom constructed the Calkins Building in 1909. Named in honor of Dr. Royal W. Calkins, a local physician and former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, the building served as the Cortez schoolhouse until 1947. Junior high students attended the school through the mid ’60s.
The building underwent some renovation about a decade ago with hopes to remodel the structure for administrative purposes, but the project was shelved in 2008 due to lack of funding. It’s been estimated that complete renovation efforts could cost as much as $5 million.
Neither developers nor school officials would comment on the proposed price tag Tuesday.
Exempt from taxes, the two-story structure has never been appraised, according to the Montezuma County Assessor’s Office. The 6.65 acres of land surrounding the building is valued at $154,280.