Space to Create looks to invest millions in Grand Lake, build artist housing, workspace
A little over one full month after Grand Lake was officially certified as Colorado’s newest creative district the town is already seeing dividends thanks to its recent acceptance to a program called Space to Create.
Space to Create Colorado is a workforce housing initiative led by the state’s office of economic development in cooperation with multiple partners. The program looks to develop workforce housing and workspace, including commercial space, for creative industries and artisans in rural communities in Colorado.
Grand Lake is one of several communities across the state that has been selected for the program since its inception in 2015. Space to create already has projects underway in Trinidad, Ridgeway and Paonia.
Space to Create will unfold in Grand Lake over the next several years but the end result in likely to be some form of brick and mortar structure for artistic endeavors that would include a mix of housing units and workspace. The project is funded by multiple entities including the state Office of Economic Development, Colorado Creative Industries, the Department of Local Affairs and the Boettcher Foundation.
While the project is meant to provide workforce housing and creative spaces for artists and entrepreneurs local officials hope it will help expand the seasonal economy in Grand Lake and bring more stability to the town’s winter and shoulder seasons.
“The goal is to diversify and expand the year round economy and to provide some workforce housing,” Jim White, Grand Lake’s town manager, said. “All of that will help Grand Lake in the long run a great deal. We are excited.”
Grand County Economic Development Director DiAnn Butler estimated the total investment Grand Lake would receive from Space to Create over the next half a decade at around $5 million. The Boettcher Foundation alone will soon be donating $250,000 to the project. White noted the town of Grand Lake is providing $35,000 in funds, which he said would be matched by other entities involved in the project.
The project will take at least three to five years according to Butler and potentially longer depending upon a multitude of factors. The next step in the process will see a feasibility study and an art market study conducted in the town. Officials anticipate that process taking roughly six months. The information derived from those studies will be used in the predevelopment phase when a formal construction design will be produced. From that point Space to Create would look to move into the development, or construction phase.
Ken Fucik, Grand Lake area resident and member of the Grand Lake based Colorado Creatives Group, said the investment from the project’s cooperating entities is meant to extend beyond just predevelopment or even construction but further still for many years to come.
“When they invest they are in it for the long term,” Fucik said. “They are looking at building something they are going to operate and make sustainable for the foreseeable future. Even after five years they will be here managing the property. They are not going to put something up and walk away.”
Fucik noted that a project such as this offers many “ancillary” benefits beyond just the value of the investment or construction of new housing space.
“We feel this can really be a way to build a sort of critical mass in Grand County around these creatives,” Fucik said. “We have so many creative people and industries here. This basically provides an anchor that will really allow us to bring them together to be an impetus for Grand County.”
For Grand Lake Chamber Director Samantha Bruegger the opportunity created by space to create is part of a larger push to develop Grand Lake’s creative economy and the way those efforts dovetail with other efforts to market the town.
“I think it is very significant,” Bruegger said. “We have been working with Colorado Creative Industries towards a creative district designation and this will complement that very well. This plays into our affordable housing issue, creating affordable housing for artists.”
Bruegger said she hopes to see some “pretty decent” economic impacts from the establishment of a space to create facility in Grand Lake, especially in the town’s winter and shoulder seasons.
“We just came off a $50,000 grant to promote backcountry adventure travel in winter,” she said. “We see the arts as a nice compliment to all the outdoor recreation we have.”
While designation as a creative district by Colorado Creative Industries is not a requirement to become a part of the Space to Create program it is certainly a feather in the cap of any prospective program members.
“They don’t specifically say you have to be a creative district to apply for Space to Create,” DiAnn Butler, Grand County economic development director, said. “But the pattern so far is that everyone has been (a creative district). Being a creative district put us in alignment for this opportunity.”
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