Commercial Street Theater Project misses fundraising goal

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 8, 2013 

The proposed site for the Commercial Street Theatre Project at 1302 Cornwall Ave on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - The fundraising drive for the Commercial Street Theatre Project in the downtown Parkade has fallen about a quarter-million dollars short of its goal, but backers are not yet ready to give up.

Pam Kuntz, who has been spearheading the project with her husband Mark, said it was too soon to say what will happen next. She said she preferred not to comment at length until she has more information.

"We're still talking to people," Kuntz said Monday, July 8.

In May, the Bellingham City Council voted 5-2 to approve a lease deal with Kuntz Community Dance for a vacant 3,847-square-foot space inside the Parkade, a city-owned parking garage with retail spaces on the ground floor.

But the terms of that deal required theater backers to raise the estimated $638,000 needed to construct a dance stage and 216-seat theater inside the space, with half that amount to be in hand by Aug. 1, 2013.

Theater backers attempted to raise that money with an online crowd-funding campaign on the indiegogo website, setting themselves a July 3, 2013, deadline to raise $300,000.

An estimated 600 people contributed a total of $50,419, backers reported on their Facebook page. But that still fell far short of the dollars the project requires. The donations are being refunded.

The space has been vacant since the Stamp & Coin Place moved to its new location in the old Bellingham National Bank Building in 2011. Since that time, the council has considered and rejected proposals for a small coffee and tea shop, and a proposal from the Railroad Museum next door to expand into a portion of the space.

Besides using the proposed theater for its own dance events, Kuntz Community Dance had agreed to make the theater available for free for other nonprofit events, while also allowing the city to use it up to 10 times per year when it is not needed by Kuntz Community Dance.

In exchange for those community benefits, a majority of council members had agreed to give Kuntz Community Dance a break on rent, with a monthly rent of $500 for the space, or about 20 percent of the market rate rent of $2,565 per month. That amounted to a potential loss of about $24,000 per year to the city's parking fund, if the city had been able to find a commercial tenant for the space at the normal rate.

The rent paid by Parkade tenants goes to the city's parking fund, earmarked for improvements to public parking.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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