COLORADO SPRINGS — Plans 17 years in the making to renovate the Colorado Springs Auditorium are getting the momentum needed actually to make the project happen.
The Colorado Springs Conservatory has proposed renovations that would update the concert and performance halls, create performance studios, conference areas, spaces for boutique retail, a historical diner, and a speakeasy-style bar, among other things.
The plan would take areas where there are three-story-high vaulted ceilings and create three different floors to allow for the new amenities.
“This is a community, cultural hub, and one of the things I’d love to get across to my fellow citizens is, this is for us. This is the true mantra of why we built her in 1923.” Linda Weise, the founder of the Conservatory, said.
It was built in 1923 with a performance hall and auditorium with a gym floor, designed to be a multi-use facility for people to come together.
Over the years, it’s hosted concerts, dances, boxing matches, roller derby races, weddings, and rallies.
Weise says she has heard of the circus stopping by as well.
“It’s special. It’s a building that has stood the test of time. It’s meant a lot to a lot of different people, and it’s something we want to make protect,” said Jariah Walker, the executive director for the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority.
In 2004, the Urban Renewal Authority designated the block on the southwest side of Bijou and Weber to collect tax revenue to fund renovations. Economic activity has been bleak in the area since, but now, a new hotel is weeks away from opening, and the city has been on a growth spurt.
“I think our economy is at the right state, and private capital is there to start looking at what to do with this entire block,” Walker noted.
There is a lot to the south of the auditorium. Part of the renovation calls for a slight expansion of the auditorium to the south, allowing for green rooms and other spaces for performers.
Combined with creating three stories of space in some areas, it would triple the usable square footage from 30,000 sq. ft. to 90,000 sq. ft.
“We have every intention of that building being activated from 7:00 a.m. until the last patron leaves,” Weise says.
With a bar in the plans, that has the potential to be an all-day affair.
The renovation comes at an obvious cost, and it is sizable. The latest projection is around $55 million; it would cost $25 million alone to bring the building up to code. Weise hopes, through potential tax credits from the Urban Renewal Authority, financial commitments from local governments, stimulus money, and donations, the project can be paid for.
Even still, the price tag has led some to tell Weise, the building is better off being torn down.
“In order to make this a reality, this is going to come down to sheer will,” she said, “It’s not a new concept. We can look around our entire nation, and every city had one of these buildings. What they did with it was unique to their culture and their community.”
Weise hopes to break ground around late 2022 or into 2023, with the reopening taking place in 2024 if it gets approval from the necessary sources, like Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County Commissioners.