Mary Hall Ross: Boldly creating a future for media and the arts
Mary Hall Ross
By the fall of 2009, when I joined the KVMR board of directors, the Nevada City-based community radio station had spent three years planning for, looking for, and raising funds for a new home.
There was momentum to buy an existing building in the Nevada City Technology Center on the edge of town and customize it to meet KVMR’s needs. A feasibility study conducted by a professional fundraising firm indicated that our community had the capacity and inclination for charitable giving to enable KVMR to raise funds to pay for the project.
There were just two problems: First, KVMR had been in the heart of Nevada City for nearly 30 years, first in the Miners Foundry, then across the street on another corner of Spring and Bridge streets. Downtown Nevada City had become woven into the fabric of KVMR’s identity, and the Tech Center location just didn’t seem like a place that KVMR could call home. Secondly, KVMR and the seller could not come to agreement on the price of the building.
At about the time that those negotiations were breaking down, a new idea grabbed our attention. On yet another corner of Spring and Bridge streets stood three old metal barns, originally built to house a machine shop that supported the neighboring foundry and more recently used as storage for their owner, the Nevada Theatre. Conversations began between KVMR and the Nevada Theatre Commission, which had floated no fewer than 15 different proposals in the preceding couple of decades to use that property for theater-related purposes. KVMR and the commission kept talking to explore how we could work together to replace those dilapidated barns with a building that would meet the needs of both of us.
By early 2011, the KVMR building committee faced the critical decision of whether to abandon the Technology Center negotiations and turn our efforts toward what later became known as the Bridge Street Project. We went around the room, giving each member of the committee a chance to weigh in. When it was my turn, I confessed that my head was telling me to stick with the Tech Center project, as the cost and the construction schedule made it much more feasible and less risky; but my heart said that we should join with the Theatre and keep KVMR downtown.
Today my heart is very full. The Bridge Street Project brilliantly meets KVMR’s needs for more studio, production, performance, office, and meeting space; and provides the Theatre with backstage space for cast and crew. Tin siding from the original barns was salvaged and reused near the KVMR entrance at the “community corner.” Massive beams removed from inside the barns were milled and used as exterior trim and for our donor recognition wall, and will soon be installed as wainscoting in the KVMR Community Room. The building’s design respects the past with its recycled metal exterior and three-peak roof profile, yet provides KVMR and the Theatre with state-of-the-art efficiency.
This was a bold move. About $2 million has been contributed or pledged in support of this project, yet we still have debt of another $2 million, much more than would have been the case with the Technology Center location. How did we have the nerve to go so far out on a limb? We believed, and still do, that this community would see the value in this historic project and want to be a part of accomplishing it. The momentum and opportunity were there, and we seized it.
This building is for everyone who listens to KVMR; who values the role of independent media; who attends plays, films, or concerts at the Nevada Theatre; who understands the power of collaboration between two long-standing organizations in the community; and who appreciates the aesthetic improvement that the Bridge Street Project has brought to the Nevada City landscape.
We built this treasure for the community, and are honored and encouraged by the generosity of so many who have supported it. For information on how you can be a part of this historic project, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit http://www.kvmr.org or call KVMR at 530-265-9073, ext. 1070.
Mary Hall Ross is president of the KVMR Board of Directors.
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