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State grant boosts theater restoration

Fox West Theatre.jpg
Posted at 11:14 PM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-16 01:16:54-04

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

"Through History Colorado, through Colorado Creative Industries, the state is partnering with the City, with the developers, with the non-profit to make this happen, to help make sure that Trinidad is on the map as a major destination for generations to come," the governor said.

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

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

The theater first opened in 1908 and hosted Vaudeville acts and traveling performances from around the country. It was converted to a cinema during the Great Depression and remained that way up until it closed in 2013.

"When that screen was installed it created a time capsule and this wonderful historic stage, equipment, stage machinery was just 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 Theatre Historical Society of American, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, History Colorado, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Smith explained that the partners have been pooling money from grants and other sources in an effort to bring the building into the 21st Century.

"The news from the governor means we're going to reactivate the storefronts," he said.

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

Project Manager Stephanie Bakken said the money will allow the retail spaces to open as soon as the summer of 2022.

"We will be restoring the facade of the storefronts so that what is now boarded up plywood will be this beautiful entrance to this theater."

Early work on the building has focused on restoring and stabilizing 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 suppression systems.

"This building was constructed at a time when it relied on natural ventilation and electricity was just beginning to be introduced nationwide," he said.

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

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

The governor's visit capped off a day of events in Southern Colorado as part of the Powering the Comeback State Tour. Earlier stops included a visit to Loyal Coffee in Colorado Springs to sign legislation that will create tax credits for employees who are seeking to purchase the businesses where they work. The Governor also visited the new 23-acre solar array project at CSU-Pueblo Campus and met with small business leaders at Solar Roast Coffee to discuss renewable energy goals.