RIDGWAY – A new permanent outdoor performance stage designed and built by architecture graduate students in Hartwell Park could be a reality next summer, with the Ridgway Town Council’s conditional approval of a contract for the project with the University of Colorado- Denver.
Approval of the contract with the university for the community engagement program project was approved unanimously by councilors at the Oct. 10 meeting, with two conditions: the 2013 budget must provide the approximate $25,000 needed for building materials, and an amicable solution must be arrived at, by the town and the university, regarding student housing for construction during the month of May.
As outlined in the contract, it will be the responsibility of the university (and its students) to design and build a 300-500 square-foot outdoor stage on the southeast corner of the park. The university anticipates the project will cost anywhere from $50,000-$75,000; the town must commit $25,000 for building materials.
Ridgway Mayor John Clark explained that council initially heard from a resident who had participated in this same program when he was a student. Every year, the university selects a project somewhere in the state, and engages in an architecture and design class by constructing a project. Clark said the resident brought the idea to council because he thought it would be a perfect way to get a permanent outdoor stage built to house the overwhelmingly popular summer concert series (as well as providing a venue for other performances).
“Every year, they pick a project somewhere in the state and they go into an agreement with the municipality,” Clark said. In this case, “We will have this architecture class design and eventually construct the project for essentially the cost of materials.”
Clark called the project an opportunity for the town to get something it might not otherwise be able to afford.
“I think what we have looked at, if we are going to get a professionally designed stage, it would cost us probably twice, if not more than, we would be paying on this contract,” Clark said. “We are not paying for these designing fees; the materials are the only thing.”
One sticking point in the contract for council was the request for covering the cost of student housing while the stage is built, in the month of May. Town Manager Jen Coates estimated that cost to be approximately $9,000, if the students had to stay in area hotels. When the town and the university initially began discussions on the project, the town hoped that student housing would be covered through local guest housing and camping.
Coates and members of council expressed frustration at the university’s request to cover the cost of housing, and suggested that the contract be approved only if other creative housing solutions can be found.
“I would hate to see this blow up over lodging,” Councilor Bo James Nerlin said, suggesting that any number of solutions could be applied to the issue, including the possibility that area hotels donate rooms and that short-term housing rentals could be an option. “I think this seems like a pretty good deal to see go by the wayside.”
Councilor Rick Weaver agreed.
“It seems to me there are creative ways to solve this problem,” Weaver said.
Clark said if the lodging issues are worked out, and the town is able to budget the cost of materials, residents can expect plans for the stage to be submitted in April, at which time council and members of the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback.