As it kicks off its 100th year, the Durango Chamber of Commerce is preparing to get a facelift.
The chamber is launching a capital campaign to remodel its facility and expand it by about 1,600 square feet, Executive Director Jack Llewellyn said. The expanded building will be called the Santa Rita Business Center.
The goal, he said, is to provide a one-stop shop for business support. The Durango Area Tourism Office and the Home Builders Association of Southwest Colorado are in the chamber building, and Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado has signed a letter agreeing to work on what space it would require with the intent of moving in when the project is complete.
“We’ve been looking at the drawings today to tell them what we would like to see,” said Ed Morlan, executive director of Region 9, which has a staff of six. He added, jokingly, “I told them if they don’t include a wet bar, we’re not moving in.”
Llewellyn also wants to entice the Small Business Development Center to have a presence in the new center in addition to its home base at Fort Lewis College.
“I celebrated my ninth anniversary as chamber director on Monday,” he said. “It’s difficult to believe that time has passed so quickly. At the time I started, I felt that having the various business entities under one roof would be highly beneficial, and now we see that it can truly happen.”
Llewellyn is looking forward to the addition of a large multi-purpose room, something in perennial demand in Durango, with the ability to host meetings for 30 to 40 people.
But first comes the fundraising.
“We’re not building the Taj Mahal,” Llewellyn said, “but when you tear into a 30-year-old building, $600,000 to $700,000 is probably conservative.”
The chamber is working with Durango Mayor Dean Brookie, who designed the building when the chamber moved to what was then Gateway Park, now Santa Rita Park, in 1986.
“Of course, everything comes with an investment,” Llewellyn said. “Durango has always been a forward-thinking community. Creating this new business hub is right in line with that.”
So the chamber has come up with a plan.
“We’re asking all the members to commit to $1 a day for 100 days in honor of our 100th anniversary,” Llewellyn said.
With 825 members, that would bring in around $80,000, which could be paid over the course of a three-year pledge. The chamber also will offer naming opportunities for different rooms at prices ranging from $12,000 to $30,000, planning to bring in about $400,000, all told.
“If interest rates stay in the same ballpark, we’ll be able to finance the rest because what we rent would cover the mortgage,” he said.
Llewellyn thinks the capital campaign will take the rest of 2016 and maybe into the first months of 2017. During that time, the chamber will work on moving the expansion through the city of Durango’s planning process.
Part of the remodel will include a more contemporary look with stone and metal siding but in keeping with the “rustic” environment of the chamber’s setting, Llewellyn said.
And if all goes as planned?
“The target is to break ground late summer-early fall 2017,” he said. “We’re just at the beginning, so that may move a little, but I believe the business community will get behind this.”
Any plans for the chamber’s centennial?
“We’ve been so busy getting ready for the (Durango Chamber) Awards and working on this, we haven’t quite gotten there yet,” he said. “But, hopefully, some of our members will help us do something big.”