Grand Lake would-be community building in jeopardy of private ownership |

Grand Lake would-be community building in jeopardy of private ownership

The Grand Arts Council has less than a month to raise $375,000 to pay off the mortgages on Grand Arts Center in Grand Lake.
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

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The plans for the building are currently on display at the Grand Lake Town Hall.

For more information or to donate to the fund, visit or contact Jo Cowgill at 847-275-5716.

The Grand Arts Council is fighting the clock to save one of its biggest assets – the Grand Arts Center on Park Avenue in Grand Lake.

The council, which has overseen the 21,000 square-foot building for 16 years, now has until the end of July 14 to raise $375,000 to pay off the building’s mortgages, or the building will be put up for sale.

“The Grand Arts Council can no longer support the mortgage costs to maintain the Grand Arts Center,” said Andrea cox, president of the Grand Arts Council, in statements. “If they don’t receive enough pledges to pay off the mortgage by July 15 of this year, then the GAC will have to let the building go and the community will lose this valuable asset.”

The council hasn’t been able to extend its deadline any further with the building’s first position lender, The Bianco Living Trust, which has given $265,000 for the building.

“It’s a great building, and we hope that they’re successful,” said Jim Bianco of Grand Lake. “We wish them the best.”

Bianco said he has yet to find any buyers for the building in the case the council doesn’t raise the money. “We haven’t formalized any plans yet,” he said.

The building originally was constructed for and utilized as a marching-band camp in Grand Lake.

In order to raise the money needed to save the building, the council is turning to the increasingly popular strategy of crowd funding, or soliciting online donations from supporters to reach a goal.

However, it’s a strategy with one big caveat. If the fundraiser falls short of its goal, even by a few dollars, all of the money will be returned to the donors.

“This funding right now is a do or die that all has to happen through the crowd funding site,” said Jo Cowgill, a member of the arts council. “If the community wants to fund it, they have to vote with their dollars.”

As of press time on June 19, the fund had raised $70.

The threat of losing the building comes at a time when the council has developed a comprehensive vision for the building’s use, which was largely conceived by Cowgill.

The council hopes to turn the building into a studio/gallery facility with a commercial kitchen, a community great room and five residential apartments for artists-in-residence. But what makes the concept more unique is that the council hopes to bring it Grand County artists who are developmentally disabled or veterans.

“It’s a heck of a bundle for that town in terms of impact potential, and it would be the first supported living that we would ever have for artists that are developmentally disabled in the county,” Cowgill said. Such supported living facilities elsewhere have been able to secure grant funding to make them feasible.

Cowgill said the facility would eventually become self-sustaining, with art sales from residents and other consignment sales funding the center.

The space would also provide studios for public use, as well as other facilities.

But this vision all depends on what the council can raise in the next month. If it’s successful, the nonprofit’s secure ownership of the building will open the doors to grant money and more fundraising to complete needed renovations.

The council can’t secure grants because it doesn’t own the building, Cox said. If the mortgages are paid off, then it will be easier for the council to secure funding to complete the building, which will likely be more than $1 million.

Currently, the building’s first floor — out of two total floors plus a mezzanine — is renovated.

If completed, Cowgill said the space could be a boon for the Grand County community as a whole.

“It’s a space that we can use in a million different ways,” Cowgill said. “Open mic night, poetry readings, you name it. It’s a community space.”

Coincidentally, the Town of Grand Lake is in talks with the East Grand School District over another potential community space, the former Grand Lake Elementary School.

Already a community investment

Over $900,000 has already been spent on the building, including money from the Town of Grand Lake.

Among public contributions, in 2005, the town gave the council $5,000 dollars to repair retaining walls around the building, and in 2009 it gave $15,000 for the completion of the building’s lower level, said Erin Ackerman, town treasurer.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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