A ‘busy hub’: Headwaters Center, a new community, educational center in Winter Park, to mark grand opening this weekend

A look at the Headwaters Center's 4,400 square foot event space on the main floor.
Sawyer D’Argonne/Sky-Hi News

Downtown Winter Park’s newest attraction, the Headwaters Center, is set to make its grand opening this weekend. The facility will act as a community center, inviting residents and guests to visit for special events and cutting-edge educational programming.

The Sprout Foundation is funding the 21,000 square-foot building, located on Baker Drive east of Highway 40. The facility consists of three levels, each serving a different purpose. The main level includes a 4,400 square-foot event space, a small retail space and a commissary kitchen. The top floor is a beautiful wood laden classroom, overlooking the event center via a glass wall. The bottom floor, set to open spring of 2019, will serve as an ecology center meant to help inform residents and guests about the ecosystem and organisms that make western rivers their home.

“We just want people aware of where their water comes from, and to do their part to help keep the rivers healthy,” said Kristin Ashworth Fanch, the center’s director. “It’s not just about the Fraser. It’s about all of the western rivers. We want people going in and falling in love with the idea of what a river is and what it means. It’s just giving people an appreciation for the magic of that.”

The center backs up to the Fraser River Trail, facilitating a more hands-on approach for those who would like to get out and interact with the river. Outside there is also a deck surrounding the building to serve as an outdoor event space, as well as a small stage for outdoor concerts and shows.

Events will be one of the major focuses of the center. Private parties can rent out the center for weddings, dances, family reunions, corporate retreats or other occasions. The Headwaters Center will also have its own events like free yoga the third Monday of every month, teen dances and even retreats to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for a Night in Space at the planetarium. The kitchen adjacent to the event space is fully stocked for catering service, as well as culinary courses.

“A lot of it is still being planned,” said Fanch. “We’re just seeing what is wanted in the community, and hoping people want to use the space to do these things as well. If somebody wants to host a dance or a party, we want to encourage that.”

Education is the other pillar of the center.

The classroom, named the Higher Minds Loft, will feature courses in everything from professional skills training to college credit courses and adult recreation classes. Programming is being put together by Grand County Higher Education.

Both the classroom and the kitchen will include cameras and monitors that will allow students and instructors to interact in real time, even if they’re not in the same location. This means that students can learn to cook from a chef in Denver, while a class being taught upstairs can be transmitted to any student with a computer and a modem.

“Our focus is to try to reduce barriers to continued learning opportunities,” said Scott Springston, executive director of Grand County Higher Education. “So the interactive video system gives us the flexibility to have traditional face-to-face instruction, but also the opportunity to have instructors anywhere in the world be able to teach courses live, and have the ability to interact with our students here.”

The ecology center is far from finished, but once opened it will feature a number of interactive exhibits focused around water and conservation, and is meant to encourage decision makers to think twice about their water use and environmental habits.

“Kids can certainly go through it, and there will be a lot for them to enjoy about it,” said Fanch of the ecology center. “But it’s really meant to reach decision makers, and people who can change their behavior.”

The building itself is also of note. Built primarily from a reclaimed Civil War-era barn, the center is designed to operate completely off the electrical grid. It’s powered predominantly via solar panels on the roof, which stores the power inside the building. On cloudy days, the center will be powered by natural gas prime power generators, equipped with pollution and efficiency controls to ensure they’re at their most efficient whenever necessary.

The Headwaters Center will celebrate its grand opening Saturday, May 26 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. with live music and tours of the facility.

“We really want this to be a community center that draws people of all ages and interests,” said Fanch. “We’d like it to be a busy hub.”

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