CARBONDALE — Four years after the Third Street Center’s ribbon cutting in June 2010, administrators at the nonprofit hub are hoping to prove it can stand the test of time and justify the $4.64 million renovation of the 45,100-square-foot former Carbondale Elementary School building.
Although still fully rented with a short waiting list, the Third Street Center has lost some of its most prominent tenants in the last year. Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities is currently working with the town of Carbondale to move its office and gallery space to the old Gordon Cooper Library, although its classroom space will remain at the Third Street Center.
The lease on the PAC3 performance space expired in January and wasn’t renewed, although concerts will continue at the venue on a show-by-show basis. A new use is also being sought for the adjacent café and the school’s old commercial kitchen.
In February, the board of directors ousted executive director Jody Ensign.
Sarah Moore, who joined the Third Street Center board in December and had previously served as co-director at the Carbondale Clay Center, agreed to step in temporarily. Although she hoped to have a permanent replacement by the beginning of June, the perfect candidate has not materialized.
The executive director position would require broad development and fundraising skills as well as the ability to handle the minutiae of dealing with tenants.
“We really want to find that person that can be everything,” said Moore, who admitted that an additional part-time position may be warranted in the long run. Currently, paid staff consists of Moore, facilities manager Mark Taylor, and a day-a-week bookkeeper.
In addition to myriad challenges, the Third Street Center has also seen some major triumphs in 2014.
A partnership with Sunsense Solar and the town of Carbondale yielded a 51-megawatt solar array, which doubled the building’s renewable energy production when it came online in January. Combined with the existing array, which covered 56 percent of the center’s electricity needs last year, the system should allow the building to generate more energy than it consumes annually. In the last week, the panels have delivered 217 percent of what’s required, with the remainder sold back to the grid.
It looks like a promising summer for events, too.
The center’s grounds, which are overseen by Carbondale’s Parks and Recreation department, include a community garden and bread oven and will host events ranging from CCAH’s music and movie series to a kid’s parkour camp. The park’s master plan calls for additional facilities in the long run, including a picnic shelter, tables, restrooms and playground equipment. The Third Street Center also hopes to add to its growing collection of sculptures.
Although the former gymnasium, which hosted the PAC3, is now without a name, liquor license or most of its former audio/visual equipment, Moore hopes it will see broader use under direct Third Street Center supervision.
“We really want to make it a multi-use space — everything from a yoga conference to a concert,” she said.
The center already rents out the gym and several smaller spaces for everything from political debates to quinceaneras. Organizations can obtain a liquor license from the town for individual events, while private functions don’t require one.
Once the commercial kitchen has been remodeled for use by the Valley Settlement Program, it will likely be available to others as well. That could prove a boon for event catering within the building, and is nearly essential for anything substantial to operate in the café space.
Currently, the primary candidate for the former location of Lisa’s Hot Mess is the Grana Bread Company, which operated a bakery in downtown Carbondale for several years.
“We’d love to see that happen here,” said Moore. “Not only would it be a huge asset to the building and the tenants, it would draw people in.”
Despite the departure of some elements that defined the center’s first four years, Moore and Taylor still feel supported by their tenants and the community at large. Several donors have even included the institution in their wills and are helping keep annual principals low in the mean time through Alpine Bank’s Legacy Program.
“It’s a great community here at the Third Street Center, within the greater community of Carbondale,” said Taylor. “We’re lucky to have a place like this. It’s a true model, and it deserves to be celebrated.”
For more information, go to the soon-to-be-updated website, www.thirdstreetcenter.net.