UCCS arts center on track for 2017

uccsPerArtsOrgTalk of the UCCS Visual and Performing Arts Center has been relatively quiet since last year, when the university announced plans to build the sprawling cultural complex.

Word of a Trader Joe’s moving into the nearby University Village Colorado and of other major projects on the Cragmor Campus have overshadowed the planning phase for the enormous undertaking.

But university officials say that’s about to change.

The design phase is almost complete, and construction on the $56 million, 88,993-square-foot center is expected to begin early next year, said University Advancement Vice Chancellor Martin Wood.

“We’re looking at and hoping for an opening in early 2017,” Wood said.

Transformer

As planned, the facility will serve as a hub for the campus’ cultural and creative venues, as well as create jobs and provide valuable performance space for a variety of regional partners.

Plans for the LEED gold-certified building include a 750-seat theater, a 250-seat recital hall, the Gallery of Contemporary Art and a relocation of both the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre (home of TheatreWorks) and the 100-seat Osborne Studio Theater. 

Despite the creation of this large facility dedicated solely to the arts, VaPA department classrooms and offices will remain scattered across campus, according to Wood.

But it will contain the campus’ venues, art gallery and some of the practice and meeting space currently elsewhere or otherwise nonexistent. The center will also include sculpture gardens, green space, additional parking and, planned most recently, catering facilities.

“We’ve realized how important it is to have a catering or food service component, so the architects are looking at including that,” he said, adding that the food element is another way to create jobs.

“Obviously there will have to be more jobs for people to run the facility — we’re talking three theaters compared to just one,” he said, explaining those jobs will probably include personnel to man the box office, book performances, operate equipment and maintain the facility.

“I anticipate that there will be a lot more student jobs.”

Aside from such minor tweaking, Wood said “the facility today is pretty much what we have envisioned,” thanks to the help of the “architect of record.”

Denver-based firm Semple Brown Design was chosen May 7 to take the center through a final phase of design, as it has done with such notable structures as the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Larimer Square and the Denver Pavilions.

“They’re changing [the renditions] every 48 hours right now,” Wood said, adding that it is mostly small tweaks at this point. “We’re getting close to a final design.”

Missouri-based J.E. Dunn Construction was chosen as the general contractor.

Everybody get together

University documents describe the VaPA Center as a “transformational, five-venue … synergetic and innovative collaboration involving the university, six community arts partners, three local school districts, and El Paso County.”

And if all goes as planned, it could be just that. When the Visual and Performing Arts Department isn’t utilizing its center’s venues, the university’s community partners will pick up the slack and fill in the gaps.

Those partners include:

• Colorado Springs Youth Symphony;

• Chamber Orchestra of the Springs;

• Colorado Springs Choral Society;

• Colorado Springs Conservatory;

• Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale;

• Colorado Springs Dance Theatre;

• Harrison School District 2;

• Colorado Springs School District 11;

• Falcon School District 49;

• El Paso County; and

• the City of Colorado Springs.

“We knew that there was a lot of need in the community from art groups and community groups for space,” Wood said. “We take pride in our role as a university partner … and we want to be able to accommodate members of the community.”

Wood said the user fees, which have not yet been determined, will reflect the extent and frequency of the organization’s usage and will be merely a means to cover expenses.

“We’re not going to try to make money off of people,” he said.

Wood said that outside partners not currently sponsoring the VaPA Center also will be welcome to use the facility under the same conditions as the current organizations.

“We think the energy that this whole facility will create is going to be huge,” he said.

“We think that because of all the groups that will be in there. Combining that with what is going on across the street at University Village — it will be a huge destination for Colorado Springs.”

“We knew that there was a lot of need in the community from art groups and community groups for space.” 

– Martin Wood, UCCS

A little help from my friends

UCCS has acquired $41 million of that $56 million funding, and Wood said the remaining quarter will likely come from additional state grants and charitable giving.

“So far the money has come in three parts: philanthropy; the state of Colorado; and the [University of Colorado system] president’s Initiative Fund,” he said. “We’re hopeful that in the next legislative session we will get another appropriation.”

The school requested and was awarded $4.7 million in state grant money at the start of FY13 and another $10 million from the CU system fund.

In accordance with what UCCS spokesman Tom Hutton told the Business Journal last August, Wood said that the university plans to request $9.6 million from the state this year.

Public higher education institutions have been forced to reach out to private donors — such as longtime UCCS benefactor El Pomar Foundation — in recent years, as the financial burden has gradually shifted from state and federal governments to the backs of the universities.

When Pam Shockley-Zalabak became chancellor in 2002, over half of the school’s funding came from the state  — now it’s less than 10 percent.

The campus at large

The arts complex is a core component of a larger project to create a North Campus that would include a 1.4 million-square-foot Sports, Arts and Wellness Village and inspire continued revitalization along the North Nevada Corridor.

The first facility to call the Village home was the $18.5-million Lane Center for Academic Health, which opened earlier this year.

Also planned for the plaza is a $27 million Sports Medicine and Performance Center, which will be funded in part with Regional Tourism Act dollars received through Colorado Springs’ City for Champions proposal.

The university additionally has plans to build a $92 million sports arena, but that will likely be a few years.

“As campus activity shifts north, more investments will be made in North Campus infrastructure and recreation fields, and the transit spine will be constructed to facilitate easy access to this redeveloped district,” according to the university’s 2020 master plan.

Also under construction is a $23 million subterranean parking garage that will be topped by sports fields.

The garage complex will be located northwest of the intersection of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Stanton Road and funded using student fees and parking permit sales, according to university officials.

“It is a big project … and will help alleviate a parking problem on campus,” Hutton said, adding that it should be complete in late August.

Another project, recently completed, was a new academic office building on the western edge of campus.

The $16 million, 44,000-square-foot, five-floor structure now houses several departments of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the School of Public Affairs. Faculty and staff members began moving in during the summer, and the building will officially be opened for business during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 18.

“It’s a pretty cool building and, again, is an example of growth,” Hutton said.

Other improvement projects across campus include the construction of an apartment complex on the north side of campus, planned to house 142 students; a high-altitude track with disabled access and training facilities; and a renovation project doubling the size of the UCCS recreation center, which Wood said should begin in the fall.