AUBURN — Frustrated by years with no progress redeveloping the old Great Falls Arts Center, councilors Monday voted to demolish it in June 2011.
Councilors voted 4-3 to vacate all tenants from the building by May 2011 and demolish it the following month. That will give the building's tenants — including Community Little Theatre and the Share Center — time to find new locations.
Members of the theater board of directors approached councilors earlier in the meeting, asking for time to put together a new proposal to take control of the building.
But councilors said no.
"We've had dialogue after dialogue about this building and nothing has changed," Councilor Mike Farrell said.
Theatre Board Vice President Tom Peters said in some ways, the council's decision was a relief.
"It's good to finally know the theater's future," Peters said. "We will begin looking for a new home. For 70 years, Community Little Theatre has called Auburn home. Now, it may be time to look somewhere else."
Councilors briefly considered boosting rents to the buildings tenants at a meeting earlier this month, but tabled the matter until Monday. Beyond the theater and the Share Center, the building is also home to two dance schools and dance gear retailer, artists, exercise groups and arts teachers.
The building continues to lose money — about $29,000 during the 2009-10 fiscal year. It amounts to a running loss of $240,000 over four years.
As it stands today, the city expects to spend $63,247 on the building, almost half of that for heating fuel. Despite the building's shortcomings, $1,171 was budgeted for repairs, according to the city's year-end financial reports.
Farrell estimated actual repairs — modernizing the building's heating system, building an elevator and building a parallel storm sewer — would cost the city $250,000 this year and every year.
"There is just no way anyone could charge enough rent to make this building work," he said. Councilor Dan Herrick agreed, saying he toured the building Monday afternoon, before the council's meeting.
"It's a beautiful old building," he said. "I love it, but I don't see how a developer could ever preserve it in a way to make a dollar of profit. I just don't see anyone doing it."
Herrick did propose taking requests for proposals to redevelop the building through May 2011. That would have given the theater group and others time to come up with some sort of redevelopment plan.
But Herrick's proposed amendment didn't get support.