Armory Building Manager Valerie Roberts announced that the construction to transform the historic Armory building into an arts center will begin in 2024.
At the Arts Commission meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9, Roberts said they have been working with the Department of Enterprise Services Energy Savings Program and selected a contractor to complete Phase 1 construction.
Roberts explained that phase one construction in the Armory building is like establishing a solid foundation to transform the building into an art center by partners and the community. She said the armory would upgrade critical systems like fire alarms, elevators, ADA restrooms, and new electrical, mechanical, and plumbing.
"Through the DES Energy Savings Program, we can do all of that through an energy conservation lens where we can make sure that the systems that we put in place are not only upgraded for safety and assets but also the responsible and environmentally friendly way to do it as best we can to save energy in the future," Roberts told the Arts commissioners.
The Armory selected contractor Ameresco to complete phase one construction. Ameresco specializes in rehabilitating older buildings in an energy-efficient manner. Their work aims to upgrade facilities while stabilizing energy costs, improving occupancy comfort levels, increasing reliability and sustainability, and enhancing environmental stewardship.
Ameresco will begin a preliminary audit to assess the needed work in the coming months. That will include interviews with potential future users and staff.
She said that between January and June 2024, Ameresco will conduct an in-depth investment-grade audit of the building. That will inform the full scope, budget, and timeline for phase one construction.
Construction is anticipated to start in the summer or fall of 2024.
During the discussion, Commissioner Tracy Schreiber suggested having a coffee shop space in the Armory. She noted it could provide an important service for people using the arts center.
Roberts said she had considered the idea. She noted that the Armory has an old mess hall space with a kitchen. Still, it requires significant work to become usable, and is unsure if they will have enough funding to renovate the kitchen at that time fully.
While the anchor partners will take long-term leases, Roberts mentioned that she is exploring options for shorter-term or hybrid partnerships. That could include a coffee shop or other for-profit business to offer additional amenities.
The anchor partner selection process is also underway, with a request for qualifications (RFQ) recently released to identify potential partners to operate out of the future arts center. The application deadline is December 15, and recommendations are expected by February 2024.
Anchor partners will be arts nonprofits with a strong track record and community arts education and training. Selected partners will relocate their operations on-site and provide programming, classes, or resources to the public.
In December, a selection committee will be formed to review the applications and provide a final recommendation for anchor partners.
According to Roberts, the model of the Armory Creative campus is to be a partnership-based organization where the city maintains ownership of the building and leases it out to multiple nonprofit agencies who will take on long-term leases in the building to run their program.
Arts Commission chair Jim Burlingame and Schreiber expressed interest in participating in the selection committee.
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