Plans go ahead to renovate the downtown Colorado Springs auditorium


COLORADO SPRINGS – Ongoing 17-year plans to renovate the Colorado Springs auditorium are building momentum to make the project a reality.

The Colorado Springs Conservatory proposed renovations that would update concert and performance halls, create performance studios, conference spaces, retail spaces, a historic restaurant, and a sweatshop-style bar, among others.

The plan would take areas where there are three-story vaulted ceilings and create three different floors to accommodate the new equipment.

A cutaway rendering showing the interior of the auditorium, if renovations were to take place.

“This is a community and cultural center, and one of the things I would like to convey to my fellow citizens is that it is for us. This is the real mantra of why we built it in 1923. Linda Weise, the founder of the Conservatory, said.

It was built in 1923 with a performance hall and auditorium with a gymnasium floor, designed to be a multi-purpose facility for people to come together.

Over the years, it has hosted concerts, dances, boxing matches, roller derby races, weddings and gatherings.

Weise says she’s heard of the circus as well.

” It is special. It is a building that has stood the test of time. It means a lot to a lot of different people, and it’s something we want to protect, ”said Jariah Walker, executive director of 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 experienced a growth spurt.

“I think our economy is in good shape, and private capital is there to start figuring out what to do with this whole block,” Walker noted.

There is a lot south of the auditorium. Part of the renovation requires a slight extension of the auditorium to the south, allowing green rooms and other spaces for artists.

A cross-sectional render cut through the top of the second story. It shows the proposed small extension of the south side of the building.

Combined with the creation of three floors of space in some areas, this would triple the usable area from 30,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet.

“We fully intend to activate this building from 7:00 am until the last customer leaves,” says Weise.

With a bar in the plans, this has the potential to be an all-day affair.

Renovation has an obvious cost, and it is significant. The latest projection is around $ 55 million; it would cost $ 25 million just to bring the building up to standard. Weise hopes that with potential tax credits from the Urban Renewal Authority, financial commitments from local governments, stimulus funds and donations, the project can be funded.

Even still, the price tag has led some to tell Weise that the building had better be demolished.

“In order to make this a reality, it’s going to come down to just a will,” she said, “It’s not a new concept. We can look around our whole nation, and every city had one of these buildings. What they did with it was unique to their culture and community.

Weise hopes to innovate in late 2022 or until 2023, with the reopening taking place in 2024 if it gets approval from necessary sources, like Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County Commissioners.

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