Arts and Culture

The city could still renovate Boettcher Concert Hall without matching funds from the symphony

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra has been working hard to make it into the black for the 2011-2012 season by adding extra shows, making personnel cuts, pushing its fund raising and promising, in general, to do things differently. But it's unlikely that a planned $90 million renovation of the Boettcher Concert Hall will happen any time soon despite the fact that voters approved a measure in 2007 that would have raised two thirds of the cost by selling bonds. That's because the CSO hasn't been able to raise its share, $30 million.

Still, the head of Denver's Arts & Venues department believes that the CSO could still sell the $60 million in bonds without going back to voters -- and do a lesser renovation -- if the city and council and the mayor signed off on it.

"Everyone in the community would like the renovation," says Arts & Venues director Kent Rice. But the current contract requires that the CSO raise $30 million in matching funds -- either as a deposit or in written agreements from donors -- before Arts and Venues can even start discussing the project seriously.

Jim Copenhaver, president and chief executive of the CSO has suggested the he will ask the city change that contract and allow a smaller project to go forward, but he hasn't brought a proposal to the city yet. He is waiting to hear from an architect later this year.

However, the funds haven't been completely frozen. Bond money has already been put into Boettcher to fix a leaky ceiling and in 2012, a new sound system and elevator will be going in. They total $1.5 million. Rice says these improvements made sense no matter what the final renovation plan is. The sound system is portable and the elevators will likely be untouched. While the roof might not stay put, he says, "when you have a roof leaking on musicians and patrons, that has to be addressed."

Beyond that, $1.5 million has been approved by City Council for repairs and improvements totaling $3 million the CSO has access to while it scrambles to raise $30 million or convince the city council that a smaller renovation would be worthwhile.

"We hope [the CSO] can find a business model that works," Rice says. "I'm cautiously optimistic."

The $60 million in bond money was the largest single part of the voter-approved $550 million Better Denver Program.

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Jenny An
Contact: Jenny An