Council puts Steamboat Art Museum lease on hold

City asks for more analysis before agreeing to long-term commitment to downtown location


— The Steamboat Springs City Council told supporters of the Steamboat Art Museum that the city can't make a long-term commitment to the museum's downtown location until a number of details are worked out.

"I think our intent is to have you in a long-term lease and to be successful," Councilman Loui Antonucci told Robert Dieckhoff, president of the museum's board of directors, during Tuesday's council meeting.

"But I don't know if we know what your expectations are in a formal lease," he said. "You need to get together with your consultant and the people on your board and refine your numbers a little bit."

The group's consultant, Robert Bailey, vice president of AMS Planning & Research, presented a feasibility study assessing financial and facility needs for the art center, which opened its doors at 807 Lincoln Ave. in December 2006. The building was gifted to the city by deceased resident Helen Rehder, who wanted it to house a museum.

Bailey told the council that the total budget of the project would be about $2.7 million, which would include design fees, construction, consultants and contractor's fees, along with furnishings, fixtures and equipment.

The building would be renovated to include a 3,000-square-foot exhibition space, a sales shop, a meeting room and administrative spaces.

The Steamboat Art Museum - an independent nonprofit organization - would manage the museum, but the city's deputy manager, Wendy DuBord, questioned how much responsibility the city would have in maintaining the exterior of the building.

"What are the terms of the lease, and what are the expectations?" she asked. "We haven't thought about that. Are we looking at (renting at) a reduced rate, or a market-rate lease? These are the things we need to see in the lease agreement. The devil is in the details."

Councilman Ken Brenner added that there are significant financial details that were not included in the presentation.

"We had hoped to see some kind of rent income that would help defer the capital costs of maintaining the structure over time," he said. "We do not see that kind of detail in the proposal."

Bailey said he anticipates the ongoing maintenance of the building would be minimal, but he vowed to return to the board with a more in-depth lease proposal.

"I think the negotiations need to be not made in a public forum because there are a lot of things that need to be looked at in detail," he said. "We'll come back with a clear plan."

Despite the board's requests of additional financial information, board members pledged their support for the project.

"It would be an important step into a more arts and culture-oriented economic development philosophy," said Brenner, who questioned the museum's ability to raise a "substantial sum" of $2.5 million. "There are a lot of competition for funds from the nonprofit sector in this community."

Bailey's plan forecasts yearly attendance of 20,000 people and annual deficit of $145,000, which he said would be made through fundraising, grants and special events.

Judith Harrington, the museum's director of leadership, said museum officials have not put a great deal of effort into fundraising because the facility opened only a year ago.

"It's difficult to ask anyone for a large sum of money without a lease," she said. "We didn't want to embarrass ourselves. I suspect once we get in gear and follow this feasibility study, that is the kickoff for a huge fundraiser."

Bailey said a long-term lease for the museum would allow supporters to pursue grant funding and, in time, expand the museum into a cultural hub - an attraction he said would be very desirable in Steamboat.

The board directed City Manager Alan Lanning to work on developing a lease, which will be discussed in an executive session previously scheduled for next week.

"The community is really ready for this," Antonucci said. "I'm really on board to figure out how to make this work for you. :The intent is how to work it out. The intent is not how to close the door."

- To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

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beentheredonethat 9 years, 6 months ago

you have got to be kidding. there is no way this group will raise the money they need. the city should not fall into the trap of having to spend tax payer money to support this. if this venture is feasible, which i doubt, then let it succeed or fail on its own. no more subsidies!


WZ4EVER 9 years, 6 months ago

The Tread of Pioneers Museum has a mill levy which the voters approved a couple of years ago. Seems that THEY should be operating this Museum and using the tax dollars already allocated to a Museum rather than make this group go out and fund raise or use the City's General Fund. What is the Tread doing with the money we (the taxpayers) gave them?


fish 9 years, 6 months ago

I would say that they would be entitled to some of the funds, but be sure that the Tread will fight them tooth and nail because the funding for this museum would have to come out of the Steamboat district for this tax. Right now the Tread gets all of the funds for the Steamboat district which is a very large portion of the total tax that this mil levy brings in. I would look for the Tread to try and force this group to open their museum in another part of the county so that they can keep their funding intact.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 6 months ago

I might be wrong, but since the location was gifted to the City for just this purpose, wouldn't there be language in it saying it goes back to an Executor if the City doesn't comply? Couldn't someone sue the City if they tried to sell off the location?


WZ4EVER 9 years, 6 months ago

Fish, I think you are right...their mill levy is county-wide but this issue is specific to the City. I also think that the City is required to house a museum per the terms of the estate. I would thiink that they either perform or lose the property to the estate.


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