A recent spell of dreary weather has slowed work to build a new entrance on the east side of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
When the weather clears, the work quickens considerably.
“It’s fun to go out and watch how fast they go,” said Traci Plumlee, the Bowlus’s finance and projects assistant.
Crews from Hofer and Hofer Construction, Humboldt, are in charge of the $1.2 million project, the most radical change to the Bowlus building since it opened more than 50 years ago.
Workers are replacing the center’s east entrance, adding a vestibule, lobby area and elevator, giving patrons with accessible needs much better access to the office, art gallery, and rehearsal halls.
Approaching the building will be a new circle drive.
The plans also include a new loading dock, indoor and outdoor storage facility and instrument storage room.
Funds are in place for the new addition portion of the building project. The Friends of the Bowlus is the driving force behind the renovations. Next on their agenda is fundraising for landscaping, a hard-surface area for outdoor classes and performances, and space for a musical garden, outfitted with various outdoor music instruments that can be played by children young and old.
THE NEW loading dock is eagerly awaited, Plumlee said.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them unload equipment, but it’s very difficult,” she said.
That’s because the existing loading doors are adjacent to the alleyway and six feet off the ground, perpendicular to the building, making it impossible for trucks to back up to the dock. A flatbed truck and ramps are a necessity.
“The new dock will be much safer and allow direct entrance into the building,” Plumlee said.
The work accommodates a new larger platform was installed last year on the west side of the building where a ramp makes it easier for wheelchair-bound patrons to access the auditorium. This spring a push-button accessible door opener will be added.
A PAIR OF donations in recent days are giving the outdoor work a boost.
Members of Chapter L, P.E.O. donated $1,000 for the project, while Allen County famers Rick and Rita Berntsen directed a $2,500 gift to the Bowlus as part of the America’s Farmers Grow Communities program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund.
Grow Communities offers farmers opportunities to support non-profit organizations — the Bowlus Center is one — and has resulted in more than $29 million in donations across the country since 2010.
THE ENTRANCE project is slated for completion sometime this spring, weather permitting. Exterior projects will continue beyond that as funding grows.
For more information, call 365-4965.
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