GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Large-scale renovations on Grand Junction's 91-year-old Avalon Theatre will kick off this coming May. Yet, fundraising for the project's full build-out is still required. Currently, the extensive revamp (called the Cornerstone Project) is split into two layers - a $7 million "core" project and a "full build-out" (costing $12-14 million, including the core).
"It's happening!" Avalon Cornerstone Project Development Director Robin Brown said. "The City will put out a construction bid in March; in mid-April, the City will award the contract; and they'll break ground in mid-May."
Brown also noted that once a bid is accepted, a construction strategy will be more clear; however, she did say the Avalon Theatre will be closed to the public for an undetermined period of time during the summer months.
"Currently, nothing is being scheduled (at the Avalon) for later in the summer with the idea that it will be shut down," Brown said. "Movies just won't happen. We want to get the theater opened as soon as we can."
Work planned for the Avalon includes new seats, expanded seating (from 967 to 1,100), ADA-accessibility upgrades, a multipurpose room with retractable seating, upgraded acoustics in the main theater, new digital technology for movie screenings, and a better heating and cooling system. The vacant lot to the east of the theater will house an addition, with a new entrance, a lobby, expanded concessions, new bathrooms and a public elevator to every level.
"The City has given $3.1 million," Brown said. "The Downtown Development Authority committed $3 million. So far, the Avalon Theatre Foundation has raised $750,000, and we have $3 million out in pending commitments. We think we'll have the $3 million by mid-April.
"We are half-way (in private-sector fundraising efforts) to the full build out," she added.
As money is raised by the Avalon Theatre Foundation, Brown said more upgrades will be added to the project (like a larger stage, better behind-the-scenes areas, and a rooftop terrace).
"Ideally, we don't like to raise funds after construction starts, but that's just been the way it's been going," she said.
Maintaining the City-owned property - like making the theater ADA-compliant and up to code - will be funded by the City of Grand Junction's contribution of $3.1 million, Brown also noted.
"There will be no more money from the City," she said, and additional funding will be needed to complete all aspects of the Avalon wish list.
Brown said making the Avalon Theatre a self-sustaining cultural hub with economic benefit to the community would be the ultimate goal of the planned renovations. Plus, saving the historic structure was important to the project as well.
"Tons of people, born and raised in Grand Junction, just love the Avalon," Brown said. "We don't just want to tear it down."
According to the Avalon Theatre Foundation's website (www.avalontheatrefoundation.org), a recently conducted survey said historic Avalon Theatre renovations will create both expanded economic opportunities for Grand Junction as well as enrich the community through the arts. Survey takers "indicated that 64 percent of the activities they would bring to the renovated theater represent a growth in the overall programming offered in Grand Junction - either newly developed activities, events, and performances or expansions of existing programs."
Other economic benefits will be felt from a renovated theater as well, Brown said, like indirect revenue being funneled into the valley (i.e. hotel stays and shopping) from out-of-town visitors coming to enjoy the new Avalon's offerings.