Monday, September 5, 2016

The Armory arts and culture re-use proposal: How much? Who agrees? Now what?

To the ACI Armory re-use proposal

How much?

The ACI proposal budget includes ongoing costs to the city of $83,901 in year one (2017) with modest increases in the out years. Out year costs remain below $90,000. The expense projections are based on audited financials or actual costs of the Senior Center.

The ACI proposal requested support for one time start-up costs of $30,000 divided evenly between operational and capital expenses. ACI has since revisited this request and intends to pursue private start-up dollars as an alternative to the request to the city.

Who agrees?

Over 100 organizations, groups, and individuals

The proposal submission includes commitments from 103 arts and cultural organizations, groups, and individuals to monthly rental of ACI Armory facilities; periodic use of the ACI Armory facilities; and, other support for the ACI Armory facilities project. The arts and culture organizations included among others: the Rochester Art Center, Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, Rochester Choral Arts Ensemble, Rochester Civic Music, Alliance of Chicanos, Hispanics and Latin Americans, and the Cambodian Association of Rochester Minnesota.  Dozens of letters of support were provided for review with the proposal submission.

Rochester Art Center

In a letter included in the March 2016 ACI proposal submission, the Rochester Art Center (RAC) shared its own intentions to “guide and encourage thoughtful re-alignment between arts and cultural organizations in Rochester” and shared its believe that the ACI proposal was “a strong move to solidify an artists-led space.” RAC committed in its letter to provide “professional advice and support” to ACI as needed; rent space as for artists working with RAC; serve as “a foundational organization along with other arts organizations, museums and community groups“; and, provide “concrete professional art administrative support via governance, finance, grants, collaborative projects, etc…”

Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust

Subsequent to the ACI proposal submission, and based on an update it received regarding that proposal, the Board of the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust at its quarterly meeting in April 2016 passed a resolution on “The Re-use of the Rochester Armory Building”. Citing the “a longstanding desire within the arts and cultural community of a multi-use facility” and the benefits to the general public “from the potential for new educational, retail, and social artistic-related offerings,” the Trust recommended that the city of Rochester strongly consider “the arts, culture, and humanities re-use” of the Armory.

Chateau Theatre Re-use Study

Last month, August 2016, the Chateau Theatre Re-use Study commissioned from Webb Management Services, Inc by the Chateau Re-use Task Force included in its report references to the ACI Armory re-use proposal.  The study found “multiple arts groups, artists, and ethnic cultural communities, all struggling for funds and space (but mostly space).” The study noted that space was not only needed as places to “to work and produce,” but also “crucial” to receive grant dollars. The study also observed the city has “a very large cultural community that has significant need for affordable gathering space.” For both groups the study noted that rising property values resulting from DMC have resulted in “rents that many can no longer afford.”  The study found “many art and cultural community representatives feel that, if the ACI’s proposal is unsuccessful, Rochester’s independent arts and culture community will be completely displaced”

Based on these and other findings, the study included this recommendation:

“In addition to making it the heart of the ‘Heart of the City’, make the Chateau the anchor facility of an arts and culture district or trail, one that includes the Armory as a home for Rochester’s small arts and cultural groups and independent artists. There is an acute need for small organization support in Rochester. The Chateau will be able to meet the needs of some of the community’s arts groups, but not all of them. We would recommend that the City give RACC’s Armory proposal significant thought, particularly within context of developing an arts and cultural district in downtown Rochester and the DMC.”

Now what?

The action that will come before the council at its September 7 meeting will relate to the appraisal and possible sale of the Armory property. As a recent Post-Bulletin editorial observed, there are serious concerns about the whether or not the site could ultimately be protected in private ownership.

If the Amory Re-use RFP is reopened, could it be expected to produce a higher or better use of the Armory than that presented and broadly supported in the ACI proposal? Though other uses may emerge, ones that are higher or better will be a challenge to realize. Apart from those council members who have wanted all along to sell the property, the nature and substance of the concerns raised about the ACI proposal suggest it is very close to providing for the "highest and best use" of the Armory. This proposal should be provided the opportunity to succeed.

Approval of the ACI Armory re-use proposal to be reviewed in 5 years deserves a vote from the city council.

If you agree, let them know:


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