Friday, February 28, 2014

Center assessing new building options

Organization shelves plan to build on Simplot lot

Express Staff Writer

    The nonprofit Sun Valley Center for the Arts plans to pursue different locations on which to construct a new headquarters.
    The decision came after proposed site and building changes failed to secure the necessary approval of Simplot Ketchum Properties LLC, which owns a large parcel of vacant land across from the Ketchum Post Office. The Center had purchased a lot from that company, on which it planned to build a new head office.
    In a news release, the organization stated:
    “The Center has been negotiating with the city of Ketchum and Simplot Ketchum Properties LLC (“Simplots”) on proposed changes for 19 months. The city of Ketchum has been supportive of initiatives that would create momentum for starting construction. Unfortunately, we have not reached an agreement with the Simplots.
    “After much deliberation, The Center board and staff believe that further efforts are unlikely to yield results. While we hold the property on Second Avenue as an asset and have benefitted from extensive planning and negotiating, we have determined that the best course forward is to reconsider all options for a new home and discontinue the original project.”
    Much has changed for The Center and the community since the project was initiated in 2006. The Center has experienced significant growth in programs, merged with the Company of Fools theater group and successfully weathered the challenges of an economic downturn. As a result, the board and staff decided it is time to initiate a fresh planning process to meet The Center’s future needs and those of the entire community.
    During the first two years of The Center’s capital campaign for the project, initiated in 2006, the organization secured $6.5 million in gifts and pledges. The Center purchased the property at the corner of Second Avenue and Fourth Street, completed architectural and engineering designs for a new facility, and pursued the relevant municipal approvals. Unfortunately, efforts to raise the additional funds needed to begin building stalled in 2008 due to the economic environment, and further work on the project slowed for several years.
    The original plan that was created with Simplot Ketchum Properties required The Center’s building to include an underground parking facility with 36 parking spots. However, there have been numerous changes since the land purchase and Center Artistic Director Kristin Poole said it would have been financially irresponsible to ask their donors for just shy of $1.5 million to build a parking facility that was designed originally to complement the future plans of both The Center and the Simplot group.
    After merger discussions with Company of Fools began in 2012, and the economy began to recover, The Center redesigned its planned building to create a more comprehensive and versatile year-round home for the arts. The revised plan offered cost savings that would have enabled construction to begin more quickly.
    “Since we bought the lot in 2006, our plans at The Center have changed and their plans have changed,” Poole said. “We hired an independent agency to look at the parking situation there, and the report indicated there is more than adequate parking in that area and in the surrounding streets.”
    Poole said The Center has determined that the best course forward is to reconsider all options for a new headquarters and discontinue the original project. Poole said The Center now has no plans to sell the lot it currently owns.
    Poole said she plans on holding private meetings with other community arts organizations such as the Sun Valley Summer Symphony and the Sun Valley Opera to discuss the needs of the arts community. She also plans to schedule public forums to take comments about the plan. The process is expected to take about six months.
    “What has shifted over time is that the community now realizes there is a huge need for a facility that matches the high quality of arts programming that we and other local art organizations provide,” Poole said. “Our community is recognizing that we need a building where people can present everything from lectures to small concerts to film screenings, among other things.”
    Seattle-based architect Tom Kundig developed what Poole said is a “wonderful design” for the building, and Poole said she hopes that much of the original design can be re-incorporated into the new facility.    
    “The Center has seen tremendous growth in its programs and outreach in the last few years, so it is frustrating to not be further along in realizing a new facility,” Poole said. “However, we are excited to reassess our needs and talk to community partners about reimagining a home for the arts that is a gathering place for the whole community. We are looking forward with great anticipation.”
    Poole said she is confident about the project’s future.
    “Every time this project has hit a snag, such as the economic downturn or this negotiating impasse, better things have come,” Poole said. “I have a lot of confidence we will have a better and more appropriate building for the whole community.”


Editor’s note: A story on this subject published in the Wednesday, Feb. 26, edition included misinformation about the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ plans. This article is being published as a correction to that story. The Express regrets the error.

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