Vail explores the possibility of a cultural arts center

The Hub, as envisioned by an architectural concept from Zehren and Associates. In the initial concept, the cultural center envisions a space for community gatherings, performing arts, businesses, civic engagement and more.
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Vail and the greater Eagle River Valley are home to limitless opportunities for residents and guests to participate and experience many activities ranging from outdoor recreation to cultural activations and artistic performances.

However, for the many cultural arts organizations working to bring these activations to the community, there is one thing many are missing: a home.

“In my mind, why are all these people moving to this community if we don’t have a space that creates some kind of synergy and a reason to grow and be together, off the mountain,” said Ramsey Cotter, director of the J. Cotter Gallery in Vail, at the Vail City Council meeting on October 18.

That’s why a newly formed group called the Vail Cultural Alliance Group – together with the city’s Community Development Department and contractor, architecture firm Zehren and Associates – began exploring the possibility of transforming the current Kindergarten Learning Center and adjacent site into a multi-modal facility, currently known as “The Hub”.

Beth Slifer, the founder of Slifer Designs, played an important leadership role in this group and told the board that the alliance was “created spontaneously”, but has grown into a group that represents many groups. local cultural nonprofits that call Vail home.

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“They all recognized that they had the same aspirations and that the top of the list was better and more facilities,” Slifer said. “They have proven their success as nonprofits in the city of Vail and they have demonstrated that they are successful and need more space to continue their success.”

These organizations, she added, include the Colorado Snowsports Museum, the Betty Ford Center, Bravo! Vail, Vail Jazz, Vail Symposium, Vail Performing Arts Academy and many more.

“There is a really huge representation and with these groups behind us I think you will find that they can generate more information in the public and more support than we have perhaps ever had for a single project, no kidding,” Slifer said. “It really encompasses a huge number of people.”

As proposed, The Hub would serve a variety of community needs, including community gathering spaces, performing arts, museums, business incubators, retail and restaurants, civic functions (including city ​​municipal offices), workforce housing and more. All of this, Slifer said, would “address the needs that we have identified and had for years to provide better cultural activities in our own community.”

Cotter added that this group and its vision is “futuristic in how we think about the kind of movement, activity, culture and pride that we can bring to the community by bringing all of these programs together in one place.”

At the Vail City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 18, Tim Losa of Zehren & Associates presented the preliminary designs for the construction site. Losa said the site and design began with the city’s 2018-19 civic area planwhich created a “Civic Hub”.

The site, he added, is central to Vail Village and Lionshead as well as other civic sites like Dobson Arena, the library and more.

“We think we can create a synergy of uses for a real cultural hub and real activity there,” Losa said.

Council heard from various members of Vail’s cultural arts community citing a need for this type of space in the city.

Connie Kincaid-Strahan, president of the Vail Valley Theater Company, said the group was formed in 1987 and has become the oldest theater company on the West Slope. However, all of this is done without a permanent home, she said.

Having a place like The Hub is something the company has dreamed of for many, many years, Kincaid-Strahan added.

Speaking to the board, Garret Davies, the current president of the Vail Jazz Foundation, said many local nonprofits started when Vail was a “different place,” citing more opportunities for spaces and more reasonable costs.

“As far as the future is concerned, finding suitable facilities is becoming more and more difficult. There are more and more constraints of all kinds,” he says. “I think without investing, one way or another, some of the cultural activities here are at risk.”

While the city council has seen the immense value proposition of such a centre, there is a lot of work to be done to bring the Cultural Alliance’s vision to life, a process which, according to Slifer, “would take years “.

Among the first steps identified by the board were engaging the community and stakeholders in the process, prioritizing, finding a new home for the Children’s Garden of Learning, exploring funding options and more. .

“We definitely need some stakeholder engagement. We also need to come together and set priorities,” said Board Member Barry Davis. “I think the idea and concept created is absolutely beautiful and I don’t quite understand how we’re going to put it all together in one package.”

One of the challenges ahead will be to finance a project of this magnitude. Slifer said preliminary estimates, not including proposed changes to Dobson Arena, were around $80 million, adding that they would reach over $100 million “for sure”.

“It’s a huge number, but it’s not going to get better. The longer we delay, the worse it is going to get and I think the need can easily be defined,” Slifer said.

Among the fundraising opportunities, Slifer identified the millions of dollars in TIF funds the city must spend by June 2030, the issuance of bonds as well as opportunities for philanthropy or capital fundraising campaigns and more.

While The Hub will take years of planning, commitment and funding, members of City Council have expressed a general desire to keep the project moving forward.

“There’s a lot of research that shows that having a cultural arts center in a community really improves the economy of that community and often uplifts the community in so many other ways,” Slifer said. “Let’s face it, not everyone wants to ski seven days a week or hike seven days a week and it’s really good to offer other alternatives… People like to feel good about themselves in adding a bit of culture to their lives while they’re also experiencing the great outdoors.


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