Space to Create eyes project on open space next to Grand Lake Center
The developer spearheading a housing project for creatives in Grand Lake has zeroed in on a possible location — open space surrounding the Grand Lake Center — with a public forum Wednesday for community feedback.
Grand Lake was one of a handful of Colorado communities selected through a competitive process to be awarded a Space to Create workforce housing project by the state. The state is using ArtSpace, a nonprofit developer, to lead and manage the project, designed to create live-work space for people like artists, photographers, woodworkers and more.
During a June 22 Grand Lake Board of Trustees workshop, ArtSpace gave the board a look at the conceptual site plan for what could go on the open space around the Grand Lake Center.
However, some criticism has emerged regarding the site selection process, a perceived lack of artist space in the designs and fears that the project will be tied to funding for Section 8, low-income housing.
“I perceive some of the fear is that we’re taking something away, rather than adding,” said Wendy Holmes, vice president of ArtSpace consulting. “This is something that would add to the dynamism of what’s happening in that space already. (The center) is not fully leased, and we feel that having artists and creative uses next door would add a lot of energy to the Grand Lake Center itself, so that more space in the center could be leased, which would add to the town’s revenue.”
As for complaints the project doesn’t include enough space for artists to pursue their crafts, Holmes disagreed.
“This is all focused on the creative sector,” she said. “You can look at our work at any of the other 54 projects across the country we’ve done, including Loveland and Trinidad in Colorado. This isn’t our first rodeo.”
She said the project would target affordable housing for creatives making 50-80% average median income and won’t include any Section 8 funding.
But that’s not the only issue.
Before the April election ushered in four new board members, ArtSpaces had noted a handful of potential sites that were being weighed around town, the Grand Lake Center among them, in December. However, trustees remember that, during the Dec. 9 workshop meeting, up to five board members told ArtSpaces they needed to find another spot.
Over the phone Wednesday, Holmes acknowledged there was mixed support for pursuing a project at the Grand Lake Center in December, but she also explained why ArtSpaces is so big on the site, in addition to trying to allay some of the fears surrounding the conceptual site plan that came out in June.
Other locations considered were the Sombrero Stables at 304 W. Portal Road and the Putt-Putt Lot at 1010 Grand Ave., but Holmes explained that it’s far better to pursue a project on public owned land instead of private property for a wide variety of reasons.
“Plus, we really like the synergy with the existing activates that are already happening in the Grand Lake Center,” she said, “so we felt like this would give it more creative uses adjacent to the center that already has creative uses.”
The Grand Lake Center used to be a school with a playground and ball field that still remain on the property. In the winter, the town sets up a portable ice rink for residents, and people in town have expressed deep fears about a loss of that open space.
“The plan that we have still includes a lot of open space,” Holmes responded. “It still allows for recreational activates. We know that’s important to the community.”
Holmes said she doesn’t believe the project would cut that much into the open space on the property, and she referenced the proximity to the playground and town assets as some of reasons ArtSpace really wants to use it.
Some people have also complained the designs show the playground next to the parking lot, but Holmes emphasized that these are only conceptual renderings designed to show what could fit on the property, not exactly where it would go.
“We’re just seeing what fits,” she said, adding that ArtSpaces is eyeing somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 year-round live-work apartments for the project.
ArtSpace will have representatives and architects at Wednesday’s open house. It will be at 6 p.m. at the Grand Lake Center. No decision is expected until the following board meeting on July 27.
If the board were to vote down the site, ArtSpace would have to go back to the drawing board and see if there are any other sites in Grand Lake they could use, Holmes said. She hopes that doesn’t happen, as she feels the plan for the open space around the Grand Lake Center would work well for the project and for the town.
“We feel this is the best one by far,” she said, adding that if the site gets approved, the next step would be putting together the funding in 2021, and there could be a grand opening as early as 2023.
If a site isn’t nailed down by the end of the year, that could push any timeline back significantly.
For anyone who can’t make Wednesday’s public hearing and would like to offer comment, he or she can call in to the meeting or write a letter or email to:
• Mail to Town Manager, PO Box 99, Grand Lake, Colorado 80447
• Email to town@townofGrandLake.com
• Call 970-627-3435
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Grand County voters will be deciding on a number of issues this November from tax increases to school board memberships. Ballots were mailed out last week and Election Day is Nov. 2.