The lights are on, the curtains are up and the energy is high at the Avalon Theatre. This fall an exciting renovation project will be getting underway. In anticipation of the work and the new amenities it will bring to our community, I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about it.During the last couple of years, tremendous progress has been made at the city-owned Avalon Theatre. In 2011, the theater hosted 400 events, attended by more than 49,000 people, and 5,870 "movie goers" attended the "Dinner & A Movie" promotion, bringing $89,000 of revenue downtown to local restaurants. The majority of the 32 concerts held at the Avalon have been near capacity or sold out! The time is right for the 91-year-old Avalon to evolve.In 2010, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) - which is supported by and allocates funds generated specifically by the property owners within the Downtown boundary - and the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra contracted with the firm of Westlake, Reed, Leskosky (WRL) to complete an Avalon Theatre Master Plan with the focus of the Symphony being the primary tenant. WRL was selected because of their unique expertise working with historic structures and specializing in performing arts centers. Their work assessed the existing building and laid out conceptual plans for what would be required for a fully functional regional performing arts center to be funded through a combination of public funds and private philanthropy. The Master Plan identified three phases of construction to be implemented over time as funding was secured. PHASE I: Complete the necessary renovations to make it possible for the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra to move into the theatre. The total cost for this is estimated at $5.8 million and includes a variety of modifications including acoustical upgrades and an orchestra pit. PHASE II: Build an addition to the east side of the Avalon totaling almost 12,000 square feet to provide additional public lobby space, expanded concessions, more restrooms, ADA accessibility throughout the theatre, a multipurpose room and an unfinished basement under the addition which can be used for future dressing rooms. The total cost for this phase is $3.5 million. PHASE III: Completion of the multipurpose room by turning it into a fully functional movie room and completion of the dressing rooms. The total cost for this phase is $1 million. In January 2011, the Avalon Theater Foundation Board (ATFB) was restructured to include a variety of community organizations, including the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, with the purpose of raising the private funds needed for this renovation project.In recent months the DDA and ATFB, in partnership with the City, have revisited the funding and implementation assumptions in the Master Plan in order to craft an improved project development strategy. The primary objectives of the new strategy are to re-phase the construction to first complete the core elements necessary to make the facility more serviceable for patrons, and ADA/building code-compliant (Phase II) and, to maintain continuous operation of the Avalon throughout the development, avoiding extended periods of dark nights while sustaining ongoing operating revenues and staffing continuity. The remaining phases will be constructed later as funds are raised. The timeline is to complete all three phases by the end of 2016 or sooner if private funds become available.On March 7, City Council voted to approve a contract with WRL to provide architectural services for the Avalon Theatre addition and renovation. This will advance the construction of "Phase II" of the project, as referenced above. WRL recognizes that this is a community project and is committed to working with local professionals. In designing a performing arts center, up to 14 different professional disciplines are needed. WRL will blend their expertise with those disciplines and partner with local contractors. This community group will work on the project to ensure that their expertise and commitment to the community is reflected in the Avalon renovation.The project is a public-private partnership between the City, the Downtown Development Authority and the Avalon Theatre Foundation Board. Each partner has a different role and a different financial commitment. The total contract amount for the architectural services is $481,029. The financial participation of each partner includes $110,476 (23%) for the City of Grand Junction, $100,000 (21%) for the Avalon Theatre Foundation Board, and $270,553 (57%) for the DDA. Upon completion of architectural services, the cost of the construction of this phase, approximately $3 million, will be funded by the DDA. Construction is expected to begin this fall and completed by October 2013.This project will "Set the Stage" for the Avalon Theatre to become the cultural centerpiece of the region.