Carbondale’s Third Street Center is looking for new tenants for the space currently occupied by the Performing Arts Center at Third Street (PAC3), putting the concert venue’s future in question.
Third Street is seeking pitches through Friday. Jody Ensign, the center’s director, said the space is under-utilized as the PAC3. She and the Third Street board will consider continuing its use as a concert hall, but in tandem with other uses.
“We felt at this point in time, to be fair to the entire community, we needed to open it up to everyone for an opportunity to submit proposals,” Ensign said.
The board is looking for a more full-time usage of the space, which formerly housed the Carbondale Elementary School gymnasium. Hypothetically, Ensign said that might include conference rentals, receptions or after-school programs. There are three other community spaces in the Third Street Center, but none holds more than 100 people. The PAC3 space, she said, would be ideal for larger gatherings.
“We’re hoping that the gym space can be used more during the day and in ways to increase the flexibility and financial sustainability for the tenant,” Ensign said.
Renovated from the school into office space in 2008, the Third Street Center is owned by the town of Carbondale and operated by a board of directors that leases affordable long-term space to community nonprofits, artists and small businesses. Josh Behrman, of Mountain Groove Productions, leased the gym space in 2011 and invested heavily to convert it into a nonprofit concert hall that includes a stage and a bar.
Behrman said he is working on a proposal that could add partners and day-time uses of the space.
“My hope is to continue on doing shows,” Behrman said. “The unfortunate thing is that the space is definitely under-utilized. We’re hoping the space can be used to its full potential. ... I’m getting phone calls everyday and brainstorming everyday on how to move forward.”
PAC3’s lease ended at the end of September. It is now operating on a month-to-month basis through the end of the year, when Euforquestra plays a New Year’s Eve show at the venue. While PAC3 is staging shows as planned until then, Behrman is not booking shows beyond the new year. He said he hopes to continue running PAC3 under a new agreement with the Third Street Center, and to have the situation resolved soon enough that he can still book a strong winter lineup.
The nonprofit rate for leasing space in Third Street is $9.75 per square foot, making PAC3’s monthly rent about $3,600 per month. A common-area maintenance fee adds about $1,700 monthly. While PAC3 has been able to pay its rent during its time there, Behrman said “it’s been a struggle since day one.”
PAC3 has booked heavily in the winters, with four shows weekly from January through March. But it’s been mostly dark in the summer and fall, when concerts would compete with the valley’s high cultural and festival season.
It opened in May 2011 with a sell-out crowd for singer Bruce Coburn, and has been full for musicians like Sam Bush and comedian Paula Poundstone, but community support has been fickle overall.
“It’s been very hit or miss,” said Behrman. “There’s been no successful pattern. The market down there is very unpredictable and we’ve had shows that are disappointingly attended.”
Ensign praised PAC3 as a community benefit, both culturally and economically, for the shows themselves and also for the bump in restaurant and hotel business that Carbondale sees on performance nights. But, with only six shows booked for this month, the space is currently performing below its potential in Third Street’s view.
“Over the last two-and-a-half years of operations, both PAC3 and the Third Street Center realized it’s difficult to make it financially sustainable when it’s really only used for booking these events,” Ensign said.