It could become the gem of Durango.
That’s what project leaders hope by combining arts and sciences into a park on the banks of the Animas River. The STEAM Park Committee has partnered with the city, other nonprofits and the arts community to raise money and support. STEAM stands for Science, Theatre, Education, Arts and Music.
The first step to build the park is raising about $150,000 in funding for a feasibility study that would look at supply and demand for the complex, including size and costs. The city of Durango is helping the committee apply for a state grant from the Department of Local Affairs.
The application is due April 1, and the local match would be 25 percent, paid for by the organizations involved and private fundraising. Sherri Dugdale, assistant to City Manager Ron LeBlanc, said Tuesday staff recommended the City Council approve giving $10,000 to show support of the grant application.
“We felt this is an arts community, and we wanted to really serve that community,” said Carol Salomon, co-chairwoman of the committee. “So from that idea grew a collaborative.”
STEAM project coordinator Sheri Rochford Figgs told City Council members the park would create jobs and a “dynamic” place to live.
“The STEAM Park is the right vision at the right time,” she said.
The project has been estimated to cost about $30 million. It could revitalize the riverfront area, boosting the local economy.
Local architect Rick Feeney said the arts complex could draw people from the more touristy part of Main Avenue to businesses closer to the Camino del Rio intersection with Main Avenue on the west side. Having these “bookends” benefits those inside those areas.
“If you get people to come up here instead of walking back to their cars, going to their hotel room and leaving, they stay another day,” he said. “They go to the (Durango) Discovery Museum, and all those people in between the two anchors benefit.”
Angie Beach, executive director of Music in the Mountains, agreed with Feeney on tying Main Avenue to the riverfront. Her group is also interested in the park complex.
“We also see the value to Durango in having a connection between downtown and the river, which will be a major attraction for those visiting our beautiful town,” she said.
Durango Arts Center and the museum are the major partners of the project. The vision is an indoor-outdoor complex that would combine arts and science on a river walk mixed with public and retail space. The park would be next to the museum on Camino del Rio and could include a theater, an amphitheater, shared office space and classrooms. A parking lot is also part of the design.
One feature would be bike and pedestrian access to the park.
“The conversation started really with the need for a new building for the arts center,” said Peggy Zemach, executive director DAC.
The arts center’s building is an old car dealership with a leaky roof and “typical old-building problems,” so center staff began looking for a new location near the museum, which was also having building problems.
The museum, which opened in 2011, lacks bathrooms and has limited running water. The science center wants to build some space next to the historical building for more exhibition space, science labs and classrooms for its education programs.
“It will help us realize our initial visions,” said Chris Cable, museum executive director.
The museum, which is a historic building, would stay. Zemach said they would move into the complex. One advantage to the groups involved is efficiency from sharing offices and classroom space. Other nonprofits are interested in using the park include the San Juan Symphony and Durango Film: An Independent Film Festival.
An earlier version of this story misstated the meaning of STEAM.