The roof of the Mason Center, a decades-old building that once housed Mason Elementary School, collapsed earlier this year.
It was inevitable, said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.
Durango staff is asking City Council for money to begin demolition of the structure.
The Mason Center had previously been used to house an elementary school, the Durango Adult Education Center, city staff offices and most recently, a day care program run by parks and rec.
Heavy spring snow earlier this year broke the roof in the lobby, Metz said. The structural failure was discovered by parks and rec staff, Metz said. It’s not a “massive” hole, she said, but one big enough to force city staff out of the building, which is now being used only for storage.
The 3,500-square-foot building at 301 E. 12th St. has stood since the 1950s. It is insulated with asbestos and doesn’t meet design standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which the U.S. Congress passed in 1990. The building housed the Adult Education Center, Durango Latino Education Coalition and city storage, among other things.
The city of Durango purchased the building in 1995 from the Durango School District, which came with a 3-acre park, Metz said. Most of the building’s history with the city involves its use for a gymnastics program, but the city paid to add tennis courts to the property, she said.
Stephanie Moran, an out-going member of the Durango School District 9-R board, said she worked in the building from 2000 to 2008. She remembers having to work in stifling heat during the summers because the building had no central air. Bears scurried into trees around the building, Moran said, and mice sought refuge in the structure come fall.
The Parks and Recreation Department hosted its summer child care program at the Mason Center for years. But it stopped providing the service in 2019 after the roof collapsed.
“Losing that space for child care is a big deal for the community,” Metz said. “We can’t accommodate all the kids. We aren’t licensed to have as many children at the rec center and Chapman Hill. One of our biggest needs is child care space for our programs.”
The Parks and Recreation Department plans to request $250,000 from the city to remove asbestos from the building, which has to be done before demolition. The structure has mold, and city staff no longer work in the building, Metz said. The city still uses the old gymnasium for storage, but the rest of the building is considered defunct.
“We will have a public meeting specific about plans and what now becomes of the park,” she said. “That will help us as we go forward in future plans when the building is removed.”