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It's on to phase two for Paonia's Space to Create

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Completion of the Artspace feasibility study, the first phase of the Space to Create Paonia initiative. was celebrated at an April 9 dinner at Edesia Kitchen. The dinner, which doubled as a Kids Pasta Project fundraiser for Space to Create Paonia (S2C), also marked the release of the Preliminary Feasibility Report.

The study was funded by the Boettcher Foundation and the Department of Local Affairs grants, with support by the Town of Paonia. It included a site visit from the Minnesota-based Artspace team, which in January conducted scoping sessions with local artists, business owners, city officials, funders and others. An event at the Paradise Theatre provided an opportunity for the public to learn more about the process, offer ideas, and ask questions.

Paonia is the third of nine communities to be selected for participation in the initiative. A core group leading the effort includes Paonia town administrator Ken Knight, North Fork Valley Creative Coalition board president Susie Lowe, community volunteer Elaine Brett, Mary Bachran with the Paonia Planning Commission and Blue Sage Center for the Arts, town trustee Barry Pennell, also with the Delta County ENGAGE initiative, and town trustee Karen Budinger.

Artspace, a nonprofit real estate development organization creating live/work art spaces across the country since 1979, authored the report. It states that the stars are aligned for Paonia's participation in Artspace "as evidenced by the participation and strong interest from so many governmental bodies..."

For study considered the concept "of a mixed-use project with affordable housing on the upper floors and commercial spaces of a variety of types for the creative sector on the ground floors." It identifies and defines the types of spaces preferred by focus groups, including live/work housing, maker spaces, public art, teaching, and event and gathering spaces.

While a project site will not be selected until later in the process, the top three potential sites, selected based on location, size, and potential for acquisition, include the former Paonia Middle School/Technical College of the Rockies building on Second Street, a privately-owned vacant corner lot at Third and Niagara, and the 3.5-acre "Twin Lakes" lot on Samuel Wade Road (Third Street) currently owned by the town.

The study also identifies the 7,000-square-foot Delta County School District-owned school bus barn at 135 Main Ave., and smaller downtown lots and buildings including Town Hall, as "scattered sites" for potential projects.

The report concludes that prospects for funding from private and public organizations "bodes well for the possibility of support for Space to Create projects in Paonia." Copies of the report are available at Town Hall.

Now that the feasibility study and report are complete, the initiative is moving into phase 2, an online market survey to collect additional information from the public, explained Elaine Brett to the more than 70 attendees at the dinner. "We want to reach out beyond Paonia, beyond Delta County, into the region, to understand the needs for affordable housing and living and work spaces here and how we can best accommodate."

Creative Coalition board president Susie Kaldis Lowe explained early in the process that the coalition is looking to not only survey the local community, but the community beyond the North Fork area and Delta County. "We want to reach out to Carbondale and Crested Butte, Ridgway, Palisade and Glenwood Springs for input," said Lowe.

The creative coalition anticipates the survey will run about two months and close in June.

The NFVCC is involved in other projects, including a partnership to develop a creative corridor connecting Carbondale, Crested Butte, the North Fork area, Ridgway and Salida. Carbondale Tourism and Carbondale Arts have started a conversation with Paonia and other Western Slope creative districts about the creative corridor, said Lowe.

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