The potential STEAM (science, theatre, education, art and music) Park along the Animas River could boost Durango’s cultural allure, but it faces major hurdles.
Consultants told the Durango City Council on Tuesday the park’s location and funding source could rank high among the challenges that the park’s proponents face.
The wish list for the STEAM Park currently includes a theater, amphitheater, galleries, science exhibits, offices and retail shops. The park also would house the six local nonprofits backing the project, said Terry Bacon, STEAM Park board president.
Construction could cost about $32.8 million, according to a feasibility study by consulting firm BNIM.
The $150,000 feasibility study was paid for by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the city of Durango and the STEAM Park supporters.
The consultants were hired to assess building the park on city property that currently houses the Powerhouse Science Center, Fire Station No. 2 and River City Hall. Under current plans, the science center is planned to remain. But the staff at River City Hall and the fire station would have to be relocated before any construction could begin.
The consultants did not factor the price of the land or the relocation of city staff into the estimates for the project.
The location is feasible, but it’s not optimal, said Vincent Gauthier, the director of planning for BNIM.
The current property is 5.6 acres, but the consultants found only 3.51 acres would be suitable to build on.
“If you could secure property immediately adjacent, you could create a better site,” he said.
He also suggested looking at alternative sites.
Paying for the project also was a major question for the consultants.
The likely source of most of the funding will be private donations, Gauthier said. The project would not qualify for state funding through the Regional Tourism Act because it would not draw in enough tourists.
“It’s very simply going to have to be philanthropic dollars to step up to make it happen,” Gauthier said.
He said this is not unusual across the country.
If all the construction was paid for with donations, it would allow the revenue from the park to pay for the operations of the facility, the consultants said.
Now that the study has been completed, it is likely that the STEAM Park board could scale back the project or build it in phases, said Cathi Cox the vice president of the board.
The consultants presented two scaled back alternatives. If the group choose to renovate existing buildings for the project, it could cost about $5 million.
If the group built a theater, a parking structure and improved the access from Camino del Rio, it could cost about $15 million.
Building a parking lot instead of a structure would shave off about $2 million.
The STEAM Park board will be waiting on the City Council’s official reaction to locating the park on the proposed site before moving forward, Bacon said.
Before starting any fundraising efforts the board will be working to refine the park concept with the city, community and partner organizations.
The Durango Arts Center, The Powerhouse Science Center, the Durango Film Festival, Music in the Mountains, San Juan Symphony and The Stillwater Foundation are all the current partners.
City Councilors had questions, but an overall attitude positive or negative, wasn’t clear.
“There is a lot of money questions to understand,” Councilor Dean Brookie said.
A community open house on the STEAM Park study will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Durango Recreation Center in the Sunlight Room. Lunch will be provided.