Cultural center in Albertsons makes sense

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By The Staff

The Curmudgeons enthusiastically endorse the Mounsey/Campbell proposal to renovate the former Albertsons store for use as a community center, with facilities for both performing and visual arts, meeting facilities for myriad nonprofit groups, and a small convention center. This facility would be self-supporting. Nonprofit groups would pay modest rent for their use of this building, while the majority of the operating funds would come from groups outside Evergreen renting parts of the facility at market rates. This facility is large enough to accommodate multiple types of events simultaneously.

This is a classic free-market approach in providing a commercial opportunity for day-long conventions in Evergreen that will provide many benefits to existing businesses while also providing for the needs of our many nonprofit groups. The basic infrastructure is already in place, including the shell building, parking, utilities, etc. The interior can be remodeled to provide flexibility, with both permanent and adjustable areas for multiple simultaneous activities. Visitors should appreciate the atmosphere of a center in a mountain community rather than in a crowded city. They will also appreciate the proximity to other areas of Evergreen that they might wish to explore, such as Evergreen Lake with its walking trails, the Hiwan Homestead Museum, downtown businesses and other points of interest.

Ideally, all capital costs of acquisition and renovation would be fully paid before the facility is turned over to a nonprofit board that would have to be concerned only with operating expenses. No debt service would need to be paid. This is a key concept because most nonprofits fail for inability to service debt, not for failing to meet operating costs.

It is a win-win solution for all. It would turn a white elephant of a large building that could be vacant for years into a valuable asset, and would eliminate the highly controversial and divisive issue of putting a major building and parking lot in Buchanan Park.

Existing businesses would gain from new visitors in town, many of whom would also visit the downtown area. Businesses in other parts of Evergreen would also gain, since tourists will also spend money in Bergen Park and at the El Rancho Center. Our local bed and breakfasts, restaurants, etc. should also see increased business from conventioneers who might want to spend additional days in Evergreen.

There is widespread community support for a future Evergreen Cultural Center on the Albertsons site. Most of the two dozen leaders from the performing and visual arts, the chamber of commerce, and the architects and contractors who toured the facility on June 25 displayed a real commitment to move expeditiously on the project.

Russ Campbell, organizer of the future Evergreen Cultural Center, will soon begin an extensive fund-raising campaign for start-up and planning support, as well as capital funding for site acquisition, building renovation, landscaping and other needs to ensure a high-quality facility bringing pride to our region.

All of this can happen without a new building, without any new taxes, without disrupting Buchanan Park, and without the loss of one tree. It is truly the green alternative.

The Curmudgeons are a group of retired professionals and citizen activists who live in Evergreen.