State subsidy stimulates theater restoration

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TRINIDAD, Colorado – A major renovation project underway in Trinidad received a big financial boost this week. Governor Jared Polis visited the historic Fox West Theater on Friday and announced a $ 3.45 million grant to Colorado Creative Industries to support the project.

“Through History Colorado, through Colorado Creative Industries, the state is partnering with the city, the developers, the nonprofit to make this happen, to make sure Trinidad is on the map in as a major destination for generations to come, the governor said.

The theater is in the midst of a multi-year, multi-million dollar restoration. Project manager Christopher Smith explained that the goal is to make the place a cultural and performing arts center for the community.

“The dream and the vision can be described as bringing it back to what it was built to be, a center for the community and the arts,” he said.

The theater opened in 1908 and has hosted vaudeville acts and touring performances from across the country. It was converted into a cinema during the Great Depression and remained that way until it closed in 2013.

“When that screen was installed, he created a time capsule and this wonderful historical stage, this equipment, this stage machinery was forgotten, but it was preserved,” said Gregory Friesen, the project architect.

The city purchased the property in 2018. The restoration project is a partnership between the City of Trinidad, Dana Crawford and Urban Neighbors, Inc. of Denver, the Theater Historical Society of American, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado History and Environmental Protection Agency.

Smith explained that the partners pooled money from grants and other sources in an effort to bring the building into the 21st century.

“The governor’s news means that we are going to reactivate the storefronts,” he said.

The building was designed to allow mixed use. In addition to the main theater, there is a ballroom in the basement and two retail spaces in the front. These rooms originally housed a living room and a pharmacy.

Project manager Stephanie Bakken said the money will allow retail spaces to open as early as summer 2022.

“We are going to restore the front of the storefronts so that what is now barricaded plywood is this beautiful entrance to this theater.”

The first works on the building focused on the restoration and stabilization of the exterior. Friesen, the architect, explained that later phases of the project will require the construction of an annex building to house the equipment needed for modern heating, cooling and fire extinguishing systems.

“This building was built at a time when it depended on natural ventilation and electricity was just starting to be introduced across the country,” he said.

The estimated initial cost of the project was around $ 18 million. However, building materials and costs have risen sharply during the pandemic and the development team is bracing for a higher end price.

Friday’s grant was funded by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Bakken and Smith believe the restoration work can be completed within the next two to three years.

The Governor’s visit closed a day of events in southern Colorado as part of the Powering the Comeback State Tour. Previous stops included a visit to Loyal Coffee in Colorado Springs to sign legislation that will create tax credits for employees looking to buy the companies where they work. The governor also visited the new 23-acre solar panel project at the CSU-Pueblo campus and met with small business leaders at Solar Roast Coffee to discuss renewable energy goals.


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