City Commission delays American Legion decision

10/16/2013

G.C. Arts proposal on hold in light of new bid.

G.C. Arts proposal on hold in light of new bid.

BY SCOTT AUST

saust@telegram.com

Representatives of Garden City Arts on Tuesday reiterated a proposal to buy the former American Legion building from the city of Garden City and turn it into an art gallery.

Jeffrey Weeast, a member of the Garden City Arts executive board and a past president, told the Garden City Commission the gallery could be open to the public within three to six months.

Weeast said if there was no action after six months, the city could take the building back. He doesn't intend to let it sit vacant.

"I'm not going to take three years, five years, 10 years. It's not going to be a Windsor or a State Theatre. It's going to be open in six months. I think I can get the doors open and have it ready as a public gallery in three," he said.

According to the written proposal Garden City Arts provided, the upstairs would be turned into a gallery during the first of a three-stage project, which would also include work on flooring, cleaning, landscaping, painting and new lighting. The proposal essentially calls for the city to donate the building to Garden City Arts, as the organization has offered to buy the building for $1.

In the first year after the gallery opens, work would commence on turning the downstairs area into office space, workshop areas and studios for artists in residence, as well as addressing ADA needs for the entrance and restrooms.

The final phase, in the second year, would involve putting the finishing touches on the entire project.

Weeast estimated the first phase can be done for about $7,000. The rest of the project may cost up to $60,000.

Garden City Arts is interested in the building because it would add much needed space for the organization. Its existing location on Main Street has a small frontage and needs more space for both the gallery and workshops, as well as other events.

Laurie Chapman, Garden City Arts executive director, said the current location also limits the ability to work with children. She said that currently, she can bring 10 to 20 children into the building, but with the Legion building she could bring in 60 to 100 at a time for art workshops.

"It is an art class, but it's much more than that. I've had an impact on children's lives this year," she said.

Chapman said for some children who don't live in a good neighborhood, coming to the summer art workshops provided the best hour of their day in a safe environment.

"They get to create art, but to me the bigger part was they were in a safe place," she said. "That's what's important to me. That's what I want to be doing in this community. That's the impact I want to have in this community, and that can only happen if we move out of where we're at into a new facility."

Weeast noted that Mayor Dan Fankhauser cited the importance of the arts in making Garden City a regional hub during a Friday dedication of a downtown art sculpture.

"Arts are important. We know that, we've seen that, even the mayor acknowledged that in the paper," Weeast said. "We want to transform that building and give something back to the community."

Weeast also gave the commission signatures from 36 business owners downtown who support the idea of turning the Legion building into an art gallery, including support from property owners surrounding the building.

"I've already got volunteers. When the newspaper article about this came out two weeks ago, I had an outpouring of people willing to donate money and donate their time," he said.

However, since Weeast made his original pitch two weeks ago, another entity has offered to buy the building.

Kaleb Kentner, community planning director, told the commission an offer came in on Monday, but it was too late to put it on the agenda. The offer came from realtor Martin Nusser on behalf of Hector Gutierrez to buy the building for $10,000 and turn it into an Italian restaurant.

According to an online search, Gutierrez has a California-based landscaping business called C.E.G. Landscape, Inc.

Neither Nusser nor Gutierrez were present at the meeting, and attempts to contact them for comment were unsuccessful.

According to the emailed offer the city received, Gutierrez wants the city's help to design a valet service area and wants permission to use the city parking lot across the street.

Weeast said he had no problem waiting a few more weeks for the commission to hear more about the other proposal.

"The choice is for $10,000 you can make a little bit of money off it, or you can create a true Garden City Arts Center that's going to give back and will be a part of this city for as long as we know," he said.

Commissioner Chris Law liked the idea of turning the building into an art gallery but also thought the commission should hear out the other proposal.

"I think this has a chance to be a great use of the building, but I think the prudent thing to do is to consider all offers," Law said. "There wasn't a time limit set, so it's not like this is past the deadline. It seems right to take another couple weeks to consider all options or anything else that might come in."

By consensus, the commission agreed to put the Gutierrez proposal on its Nov. 5 meeting agenda.

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