Council gives thumbs down on Great Falls Arts Center, moves to demolish building next June

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.

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 's picture

Damn Shame

I think its a damn shame that this is happening. As a city, we have wasted a lot of money on far more useless projects than this (i.e. - Building festival plaza and replacing the ugly awnings how many times, and at what cost and THAT brings in SO MUCH revenue. LOL. And a city building that is way more than we needed). They are about to displace numerous performance and arts classes, groups that will more than likely be forced to move to other towns. CLT has been there 70 yrs, Camire Dance has been there 11 years, and many others have moved in only recently and haven't even had a chance to make it work. This affects thousands of children and adults that take these classes. Again another loss for the city. I am disgusted at our city council for doing this. They are not willing to do anything for this but sit on there butts and criticize the tenants. You, as a council, should be ashamed and I, for one, will definitely be looking at others to take your places come the next election.

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That is simply not the case. Can you cite a source for that statement?

People don't want to move here because our schools are falling apart, the roads are crumbling, and the city won't be plowing some roads after 11pm.

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This is an opportunity

What an opportunity for collaboration with other organizations.

CLT could use the Lewiston Junior High School amazing facility that's far more comfortable than their current location.

What about a collaboration with the Franco Center or the Public Theater? This is truly an opportunity to move foward, collaborate and build the arts.

Stop whining CLT. See the possibilities that are at hand. Almost $32,000 to heat that building is absurd!

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Lewiston Middle School's

Lewiston Middle School's auditorium is way to busy for CLT to be there all the time and why would we want to make these businesses leave the city for another? Dahhhhh. We already lose enough to other cities around us because of taxes and the way our "elected" officials run stuff.

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It's not that simple Dave

The council has asked for proposals in the past. The council was asking for an idea from CLT this meeting but none was forthcoming. The council has tried to sell the building to CLT for $1.00 a number of times (as stated by Mr Peters last evening).

Now, after years of trying to get some positive movement on this project, the council takes decisive action. They gave CLT a great number of chances. The council was very patient.

Further, CLT has paid far less than market value for it's rent for a good number of years. It was stated last night that CLT uses approx. 10,000 sf and pays a bit over $700.00 a month. That is incredibly low. In the time that this has been going on, why weren't they able to save some for exploring purchasing the building? To me, that is definitely supporting the arts! And we are even going to do it this winter as well. According to the lease agreements the city signed, they need to give tenants 60 days notice. They have given them 6 months notice, more than fair.

I will agree that the city has done a poor job of marketing the space. The management of this facility has been less than professional. If the city is incapable of being a responsible landlord, they should hire a private real estate management company to act as it's agent.

So, for now the die is cast and CLT must look for another venue. It is not the city's responsibility to find another venue for CLT. I hope CLT looks at it as an opportunity to find a more suitable, updated facility. It has been said that the building contributed to it's limited success as people didn't like the accomodations when attending a play.

I wish CLT well and hope to again enjoy their productions in a new home.

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But we do agree ...

On the ungly retaining walls and lack of plowing. I have argued at city meetings for some time now to stop wasting money on frivolous expenditures. I personally think the narrowing of Main St is disgraceful. I think spending nearly $40,000 for a couple park benches in front of Vincent Block was a huge waste - especially with a couple parks less than a block away. I think Dunn Street was a complete waste of money as well. I have brought all this forward and have not yet gotten any satisfaction. I wish others would attend the meetings, contact the councilors and let them know what you think is screwed up in this city. I try to let them know when i think they are doing a good job as well.

I think the city is headed in the wrong direction and I hope we can all get to the meetings and convince the council of that. Even if you disagree with me, come let the council and the city manager know...

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It's actually worse...

I didn't understand Councilor Farrell's numbers last night so I emailed him today to ask what they represented and where he got them. He called me back to explain. (To you who think the council doesn't listen, email them or call the number listed on the city's website. I almost always get a response.)

Councilor Farrell told me that his numbers come from communication with CLT and the city's finance department. According to him the number he has been quoted as saying - roughly $250,000 the past four years - was taken from the city's finances. However, he claims they fail to include the money from the TIF zone financing that was created a number of years ago to finance this project. He stated that if we included those funds that don't get accounted for through the city's finance department on the regular books, the figure would be nearly $200,000 more. so now we're talking nearly a half million dollars - that isn't chump change.
As far as the "social capital" that Mr Aho talks about, the same can be said for the Little League fields, the skating arena, and lots of other public activities that happen in our city. I do enjoy the arts and I wish there were more in Auburn, but the aforementioned venues - Public Theatre, Franco Center, the various schools - are great. Also not to be overlooked are the Theater in Monmouth, Oddfellows Theater, Celebration Barn, and Sawyer Memorial to name a few. These are all private (I think) and are making it on their own. It is time for CLT to get out there and make their dreams come true on their own.

If the city should vote to build a new high school with a modern theater I hope something can be worked out to allow all to use it. But in the interim, I hope CLT will find a new venue close to (preferably in) Auburn so we can continue to see the shows.

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City hall

I say we hold the city building to the same standard. How much money does that lose every year? Isint this going to cost millions to demolish?

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There are programs in the

There are programs in the middle of there season, moron. You can't uproot these classes in the middle of a season.


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