Tag Archives: community development

Historic Preservation Month Feature: Mountaineer Theater in Lake City

28 May

“Modern Cinema. Vintage Setting”

City: Lake City, CO
Population: 500
Year Built: 1974
Privately Owned


The Mountaineer Theater, located appropriately in the mountain town of Lake City, CO, is one of many in the state who is currently in the process of converting from 35mm film to the new industry standard digital projection. Yet this small-town for profit theater has managed to avoid the pitfall of closing their doors for good by undergoing a two year fundraising effort that has raised more than $120,000 through the contributions of a select group of individuals. They have temporarily closed during the fundraising process and plan to open up again this coming summer.

Built in 1974, the Mountaineer Theater began as a local destination to cater to a small population of prideful residents who valued the theater as one of their community’s great assets. In time, Lake City’s population expanded as out-of-state tourists began to flock toward the mountains, many of whom settled down there such as second-home owners and retirees. For a while, ticket sales remained steady but around the 1990’s theater owner Phillip Virden began to witness a decline. When the 2008 economic recession hit, ticket sale revenues had plummeted and the film industry’s demand for digital conversion was looming closer. Mr. Virden knew he needed to take action, but without historic status for tax credits and digital projector prices still high, the task would be very difficult. But by 2010, projector prices began to dip and Mr. Virden took the opportunity to seek out funds.


Initial fundraising efforts were sought through a coalition called Cinema Pine Group, a subset of the National Association of Theater Owners. Yet after several weeks, the financial agreement dissolved and a new partner was needed. Mr. Virden found it in Gunnison Private Savings and Loans who became the major financier by helping to create an equitable financial package. In the end, they helped raise over $70,000 for the theater. Other sources included individual private donors who contributed small amounts that totaled over $1,500 and Phillip Virden himself, along with his wife, who raised over $50,000.


Though no direct community partnerships were formed during the process, Mr. Virden hopes to build them during future efforts to raise an additional $25,000 that will be used to restore the theater’s interior seating and box office. Some ideas include working with the Downtown Lake City district to create business incentives such as “dinner and a movie”, hosting classic movie nights in agreement with licensed film production studio companies, and partnering with the Art Council of Lake City to host a future film festival.  The theater plans to open this summer and The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp was filmed 60 miles west of Lake City and may possibly be the opening movie.

For more information visit: http://mountaineertheatre.com/


Historic Preservation Month Feature: Cliff Theater in Wray

20 May


City: Wray, CO

Population: 2,300

Historic Structure: Yes, Colorado State Historic Registrar

Year Built: 1950

Public Non Profit: Cliff Cultural Community Center Inc.


The Cliff Theater was originally built in 1950 in a small town of 2,300 people in Northeast Colorado. For the last 60 years, this theater has stood as a landmark for the community in Wray, but in 2007 the owner realized that the theater was in jeopardy. The solution was to create a community center with 501c3 designation. The original board received a $25,000 financial commitment from a local trust for three years to get the Cliff Cultural Community Center Inc. up and running. They changed the business model and become a public non-profit, only to be jeopardized again five years later. In the fall of 2012 they learned that the movie industry would be going digital and they would have to do the same to survive.


In total it took about 14 months to gather enough money to fund a new digital projector. Three major donors, El Pomar, Gates Family and Kitzmiller Bales and Powell Trusts, contributed $85,000, and the Cliff Theater was able to raise another $45,000 through about two-dozen community fundraising events. These efforts were all small fundraisers like bake sales, donation buckets, silent auctions and letters.

Since May 2012 the theater has been run strictly by board members and volunteers. The community really rallied around the Cliff Theater because they understood that without the theater there were few options for family and youth to be entertained, without traveling more than 40 miles.


The Cliff Theater is not just a movie theater, but also a community center for Wray and Yuma. The Theater hosts events ranging from dance classes, youth group meetings, to birthday parties, and music shows.

Cliff Theater’s next steps are to further diversity the theater’s current programs by exploring licensing options for showing classic movies, developing the center as a live music venue, reinstating a children’s movie summer program, and adding programming from a digital broadcast network provider to show events like concerts and sports events.

For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cliff-Theater/155229292458

Spotlight on…Silverthorne

13 Apr

Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) recently led a technical assistance assessment in the Town of Silverthorne on March 21-22. Below is a snaphshot of the two-day visit and the challenges and opportunities that DCI’s team of downtown revitalization professionals discovered.

The Town of Silverthorne, determined to continue to enhance the community, enlisted Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) to plan and coordinate a downtown assessment to identify a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to review all the previous work done and provide some practical and implementable guidance for how best to move forward in the short, medium, and long-term time frames. DCI enlisted specialists focusing on landscape architecture, signage and way finding, economic development, financing mechanisms, marketing and promotions, and more. The team met with numerous stakeholders and groups working in Silverthorne to identify the priorities that this community must work on. The community made it clear that community development and finding a sense of place was a primary goal.

The Silverthorne Downtown Assessment represents the first of its kind because there is no traditional or clearly defined downtown commercial core in this community. The town identified a commercial core area in which to focus efforts that encompassed a very long stretch of Highway 9. Though this area is a key corridor in the community, it does not connect  the areas of activity that residents use the most. Rather, the usage patterns highlighted the need for greater attention to east-to-west connections that intersect the key arteries of  the Blue River, and State Highway 9.

The apparently lacking sense of unified community appears rooted in both physical layout and a conceptual disconnect between ideas and implementation. Despite the clear role of Silverthorne as the home base of Summit County, “where people come to get things done,” there isn’t one readily identifiable gathering place that draws locals and tourist to a community destination. The community has done studies, acquired property, requested designs, and revised zoning; yet all of this planning and preparation for development has not resulted in the town feeling content with moving forward without first inviting more private sector initiative.

Silverthorne has a wealth of beauty and natural assets. The community and the local government identified the Blue River as a community asset that should be accentuated in community and economic development initiatives. However, despite a lovely and useful trail and bridge system constructed to provide access to the river, this fabulous natural asset is not especially highlighted by most community centers. Some ideas are provided to assist in translating the planning efforts into the larger community vision.

The team worked to narrow the physical boundaries of the downtown core to identify the activity nodes that are most utilized and would serve as the heart of the community – or the physical sense of place. The team identified projects that can be done with little to no funding, as well as longer term organizational structure and capital projects to enhance the relationships and physical connections in the commercial core. The team highlighted what to do and how to do it through creation of a step-by-step action matrix to clarify how, when, and who might be the best community stakeholder to get the job done.

Silverthorne is a dedicated and inspiring community of folks ready to roll up their sleeves and build the community together. Good luck to Silverthorne! DCI and our member volunteers look forward to continuing to work with this town as they move forward with the Heart of Silverthorne Initiative.

Interested in DCI’s technical assistance program? Visit www.downtowncoloradoinc.org for details or contact us at 303.282.0625.