I last wrote about an arts, conferences and events center in October 2017, nearly a year ago. A group has been meeting for nearly 18 months to create a plan for this type of facility for Durango, and recently, there has been news coverage of the concept. Here is an update on our progress:
The Durango Business Improvement District (BID) has been an active member of the current group working to solve this puzzle. It’s not easy to get all the pieces in order. A facility like this requires a lot of planning and hard work.
The current plans call for a combined performing arts and convention center. Bringing both together under one roof allows the facility to operate at max capacity, and thus makes operations more affordable.
Initial plans call for a 450 -seat theater, which can be quickly converted for other events, such as a sit-down dinner for 450 people; a 6,000-square-foot lobby that can host events as well as serve as a check-in area for conferences; 3,000 square feet of meeting rooms that can be configured in different ways; an art gallery; a rehearsal theater that can also host events; a catering kitchen; and a 450-space parking garage.
Choosing a location for a facility of this nature is very important. Ideally, it would be located near hotels and have a transportation option for guests staying in other parts of town. The facility should also generate foot traffic in the downtown core. The location also drives the cost, which is another important factor.
It is estimated that the cost to build a facility like this would be around $40 million. An operating subsidy would be needed initially, but our proforma shows the facility can break even after five years.
The trade-off for communities is that after creating funding streams to build and operate an arts, conferences and events center, the activities held in it produce additional sales and lodgers tax. Conservative estimates show $1 million in new sales and lodgers tax revenues on an annual basis.
Where does the money come from to build and operate it? Increasing lodgers tax is a key to making this happen. A robust capital campaign is also needed, as are grants from foundations that support the arts and economic development projects. BID might have to consider increasing its mill levy as well.
This is a big idea for Durango, but one with a big economic return. Durango’s best annual indoor events and performances have maxed out existing space and cannot grow. Performance venues downtown do not have adequate backstage areas, rehearsal halls nor fly towers. Durango is missing out on small- to mid-sized conferences, which can bolster our shoulder seasons when the economy slows down.
It’s time to make this long-held dream a reality. BID will continue to work on this important project.
To keep up with information about downtown and the North Main District throughout the year, sign up for BID’s weekly E-News. The E-news is a short, accurate and timely information piece published every Wednesday morning. To sign up, go to DowntownDurango.org and click on the “I Want To” tab.
Tim Walsworth is the executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.