Garden City Arts eyeing downtown bank building

1/24/2014

Group sees Commerce Bank building as prime spot for cultural center.

Group sees Commerce Bank building as prime spot for cultural center.

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

The Garden City Arts is hoping to acquire the Commerce Bank building on Main Street and turn it into a cultural center for the arts in downtown Garden City.

The group presented the proposal to its board of directors Tuesday at the organization's annual meeting. The board agreed to pursue the proposal.

The group has been working with local resident Duane West the past couple of months on a proposal to acquire the building on Main Street.

Commerce Bank has plans to move out of the building and centralize its operations in the former Bank of America building at the corner of Kansas Avenue and Fleming Street.

Garden City Arts has been searching for a new facility for the past year and a half as part of its strategic plan. This year marks the last year of the strategic plan that was formed in 2011.

West has a collection of artwork that he would donate to Garden City Arts if the organization could permanently secure a facility, said Laurie Chapman, executive director of Garden City Arts. She said West contacted the organization after the group's previous bid for the former American Legion building failed.

West could not be reached for comment.

In the proposal, the organization outlines a desire to receive the Commerce Bank property as a donation to be used as a cultural center for the arts in downtown Garden City. In return, Commerce Bank and the Kemper Foundation — officers and directors of Commerce Bank — would retain naming rights and a seat on the group's board of directors.

"We're ready to move into the facility immediately, but that depends on Commerce Bank's decision," Chapman said.

No representative of Commerce Bank was present at Tuesday's meeting, and Chapman added that the next step is to meet with officials from the bank about the proposal to discuss the potential of such a move.

Debbie Harding, Commerce Bank spokesperson, said the bank has neither received a proposal nor been approached by Garden City Arts yet.

Chapman said she and a board member are planning to set up a meeting with Commerce Bank officials to submit a formal proposal, but she expects a period of time before a decision is made.

"We need to be proactive to get this proposal going, but right now, it's completely up in the air," Chapman said.

With the donated art from West, Chapman talked about how the art and the move could boost the economy by attracting visitors from all over, as well as boost arts and culture in the community.

"We need to continue to move forward and take a leap of faith in becoming a key player in the revitalization of economic development and downtown Garden City," Chapman said.

Also in the meeting, Garden City Arts elected new board members. There was an opening for the vice president position, which was filled by Caitlyn Hanneman, and a vacancy for the secretary position, filled by Katy Hopson.

The 2014 board of directors is as follows: Lara Bors, president; Hanneman, vice president; Elizabeth Baker, recording secretary; Hopson, corresponding secretary; and Risa DeVaney, treasurer.

Chapman hopes to add five more board members, and has spoken to five possible candidates, but the process of filling the seats on the board could take at least two months.

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