Garden City will spend up to $10,000 to make a few upgrades to the State Theater before it can be used any further, and is again seeking proposals for a long-term use for the building.
In November, the city commission, after noting concerns about the theater’s condition, directed staff to review the building’s code issues.
On Nov. 10, staff from the engineering, planning, inspection and fire departments inspected the building, and the fire department conducted a second tour on Nov. 21.
This past Tuesday, staff told the commission that at a minimum, before the building is used any further, exit lights, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers and a functional rear exit door near the stage need to be installed.
The estimated cost of those repairs is $10,000. The city has had $50,000 available for environmental remediation of the building since 2011.
Other life safety issues with the building listed in the fire marshal’s report include that the secondary exit from the building needs a different type of latching/locking hardware and needs to be made accessible for people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act; a need for secondary ingress/egress in the balcony; a manual fire alarm system required by code in buildings that have an occupancy of more than 300; an automatic fire sprinkler system; basement areas needing to be separated from the rest of the building with fire-resistive rated construction; and a recommendation to have a qualified electrician check if electric service complies with electric codes.
In the report to the commission, staff indicated ADA improvements did not need to be made immediately, though any new owner of the building would need to fully investigate those issues and the other life safety needs identified by the fire marshal.
The commission voted Tuesday to proceed with the installation of exit lights, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers and the changes to the rear exit door near the stage before any future use of the building is allowed.
Heating and air conditioning is another issue that should be looked at, according to Commissioner Dan Fankhauser.
“It got pretty hot in there this summer and pretty cold later on. That’s, to me, a bigger issue. Somebody’s gotta address that,” he said.
The commission also approved a new round of asking interested parties to submit proposals for a permanent use of the building.
Built in 1929, the State Theater, 418 N. Main St., was used as a movie theater until December 1999, when it was donated to the city. In late 2012, the city asked for proposals to do something with the theater. Mark Pamplin came forward with a $3 million proposal to turn it into a 400-seat, theater-in-the-round.
Pamplin is still interested in pursuing that vision and plans to resubmit a proposal, albeit with some possible tweaks in approach. Instead of trying to raise the entire estimated amount for the project, Pamplin said he may take a multi-step approach starting with ADA issues and the heating and cooling system.
“I want to be able to get the place comfortable with heating and air conditioning, get the lobby taken care of, and be able to build our audience over the next several years to show what we can do,” Pamplin said during an interview Thursday.
Pamplin said new bathrooms, a new ticketing office, air conditioning and heating system, may qualify for grants from a variety of sources, including the possibility of CVB or Finnup Foundation. A portion of the plumbing and electrical improvements necessary may be addressed by reconfiguring the lobby.
“With the stairway here (north of the stage that leads outside) we would either need to ramp it or put something else there. That was the other place they were talking about,” he said.
Pamplin is also open to collaboration with other arts groups for use of the building, something that was suggested during the city commission meeting.
Priscilla Hallberg, director of the String Academy of the Plains and a Garden City Arts board member, told commissioners on Tuesday that the academy doesn’t have a building or studio space and Garden City Arts has also been talking about the need for an arts center.
“I don’t know exactly what the intention is for the State Theater. I’ve been to two of the productions Mr. Pamplin has put on and enjoyed them very much. I think it would be a terrible loss for the community to not allow him to continue,” Hallberg said. “But I also think we need to have some unifying work done with the various arts organizations. I think if there were an arts center we would be able to use the facility for many different things.”
Pamplin said he’s open to talking to other groups. In fact, if he was allowed to continue, Pamplin said part of his plan would be to have other groups bring in concerts, comedians, other performing artists in between his own productions.
“Over the next couple of months, I just have to go talk to some people, and if I can come up with some money, then I think that would be helpful. That’s the bottom line for the city,” he said. “The place has been closed for 15 years. I’ve had two years with it and we just started getting traction. We started opening some eyes. I don’t know what other proposals are out there, but we’ll see.”
The deadline to submit proposals to the city is 10 a.m. March 2. Proposal documents may be obtained from the city engineer’s office, 301 N. Eighth St. The documents are also available electronically. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.