Conversion of Silverthorne fire station completing steps toward final pitch |

Conversion of Silverthorne fire station completing steps toward final pitch

Organizers of the artist center are working on final cost numbers before going to Town Council for approval

The Silverthorne Art Board has worked for months to develop a business plan to convert the town's old fire station into a space for artists. In the coming weeks, the organization will conduct final tallies for how much the conversion will cost.
Ryan Hyland/Town of Silverthorne

Arts and culture leaders in Silverthorne are steadily pushing forward to convert the town’s old fire station into a creative space for local artists. In the coming weeks, the Silverthorne Art Board will conduct final tallies for how much the conversion will cost.

Leadership met with the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee to present the latest version of its plans on Tuesday, March 15, after the Town Council suggested the two collaborate on ideas. Joanne Cook, Silverthorne’s recreation and culture director, said that organizers of the art center are mostly idea-driven, so meeting with the committee helped them solidify the financial aspects of their visions before presenting to the Town Council again. Cook said that they’ve now presented four times and have taken the advice of the council as they’ve worked on their pitch.

“It feels like this next step is a natural progression,” Cook said Thursday, March 17. “It’s a physical space for artists to work from. With our new development downtown, that would be a reality, and it has always been the Art Board’s goal to activate those spaces.”

Cook added that in the long term, it’s totally possible that the hub could move to another location, which would free up the fire station for the town’s use in the future. The end goal, though, would be for Silverthorne to be a certified Colorado Creative District. Currently, there are 30 districts across the state that have this distinction, with Breckenridge being the only one in Summit County. With the official designation, creative districts receive financial support, assistance for marketing strategies, highway signs from the Colorado Department of Transportation to direct people to the district and leadership training. Each district also gets $10,000 in the first year of the five-year certification period.

As one of the eligibility requirements to be a creative district, a local arts district must have a physical location for artists to gather, and Cook said that the hub would fulfill the requirement for Silverthorne.

For months, Art Board members have worked to put together a final proposal for the Town Council, who has the final say as to whether or not the building becomes an art center. The next step before presenting a final pitch would be to narrow down the exact expenses that it will take to fully convert the space into what they’re looking for.

“Some of our conversations have been about how we measure success,” Cook said. “Obviously, it’s not going to have the sales tax revenue that a restaurant or brewery would have, so we used a survey to see how artists would use the space.”

Ideally, the site would be an artists center that includes spaces and equipment for them to create various pieces. The final space could also include areas in the building for the public to come gather for events or interact with artists, Cook said. She added that there may be art exhibits where the public can feel like they have a place in the arts center. In short, she said, she wants the building to welcome all residents and visitors who value the arts.

Earlier this year, a survey of local artists revealed that a vast majority would use the space, and nonartist community members who took the survey also expressed interest in the center’s resources, such as classes or studios. At that January meeting with the council, board members estimated it would cost about $350,000 to get the doors open and make it usable for the public. Cook said at that meeting that the town could spend about $50,000 on used art equipment, and some educated guessing led the team to estimate the center would bring in about $87,000 in revenue yearly and cost about $127,000 in annual operational expenses.

Those totals will be updated over the next few weeks, Cook said, but the conversion would be done within a year when approved.

“When we first started, we felt like we could get it done in a year, and we don’t want to go back to council until we’re very confident with numbers,” Cook said. “It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and put the business plan together.”

Town Manager Ryan Hyland said that in past conversations, town leadership discussed other opportunities for the building — such as a child care or housing. Fortunately, he said, the town currently has other options for both of those issues. The town has other properties it could look at should it need to build or discuss options for housing, and the development near Smith Ranch will give the child care crisis some relief once finished. Hyland added that child care would be less opportunistic for that building, since the area has little parking.

He said that town leadership generally supports and is interested in the Art Board’s vision.

“It’s a mixed-use building right now,” Hyland said. “There are construction offices for Fourth Street Crossing, a storage yard for equipment and real estate offices. We provide the garage and storage space for the Lake Dillon Theatre. So I think that to see it activated in a way that’s accessible to the public is a positive. Currently, it’s not bringing us community-gathering aspects that it could. We plugged some uses into there, and it was convenient. But this is not a long-term plan.”

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