The group that has convened to shepherd from conception to reality a sweeping vision for a science, arts, education and cultural center on the Animas River has a large task at hand. Constructing the campus currently occupied by River City Hall and the Durango Fire Protection District station is estimated to cost between $25 million and $33 million requires capital investment of significant proportions, and is predicated on solving the logistical challenges of relocating the government services – an effort that will carry a large price tag of its own. These are not insurmountable hurdles, but conquering them requires a very clear understanding of what is needed – and wanted – to make the effort successful. To that end, the Durango STEAM Park’s leadership committee is beginning where it should: with a master plan.
The STEAM (Science, Theatre, Education, Arts and Music) Park leadership committee is examining other cities efforts in the same vein, with the goal of compiling a cultural master plan that reflects Durango’s desires for the STEAM project. Given the costs associated with the effort, and the philanthropic dollars it will take to actualize it, this is an appropriate initial focus.
In order for the STEAM Park to be successful – in the short and long terms – its organizers must be clear on the vision, mission and resources available for meeting those goals. Considering other cities’ experiences with cultural centers akin to that with the STEAM group envisions is an important endeavor that will do much to inform Durango’s planning process through the challenges and opportunities of those who have traveled the road previously.
From there, STEAM Park organizers can then turn to the Durango community from an informed position, and seek input from the residents the project will serve, as well as the city itself. The project’s leaders are wise to involve the city in the plans early – and must do so because of the group’s interest in city property for the project; a capital-fundraising campaign depends upon a dedicated site for the STEAM Park.
Further, the city has a tall planning and investment order to fill so River City Hall property can be available for the STEAM project. Moving the fire station and the city’s planning and public-works departments is no small undertaking, and will represent a significant de facto investment in the STEAM facility on the city’s part. Doing so must be based in a well-conceived plan that is achievable and sustainable.
As lovely as it would be to have a working STEAM Park in relatively short order, the work will not likely be expeditious – nor should it be. Crafting a thorough master plan upon which to base a major capital campaign will take time to do well. In order that the project succeeds in the long term, STEAM Park leaders are right to take this diligent approach – with the goal of providing umbrella organizational support for the partner groups that comprise the future STEAM Park. The effort is comprehensive, and the preliminary is panning out to be similarly exhaustive. A cultural master plan is an excellent next step.