By Elizabeth Riggs
It’s been a long, bumpy road for the Springville Art’s Café. But finally, Seth Wochensky, Springville Center for the Arts executive director, can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Many Springville residents may remember the Springville Art’s Café building, located at 5 East Main Street, as the site of The Donut Shop or Teddy’s Candy Kitchen. Until recently, it was completely unrecognizable.
The building had completely collapsed and was abandoned when the Springville Center for the Arts acquired it from the village in 2012 for $1.
“It was upside down legally and had all kinds of back taxes, and had been abandoned for many years,” said Wochensky. “There was nothing to save on the inside. Really, we were saving the front facades and the neighboring building.”
And they were also helping to preserve a piece of history for the village of Springville.
“We believe Main Street is important and that these buildings are important, and we wanted to do something to preserve that historic landscape. We took on this project and no one else was really willing to look at it,” Wochensky said.
With the help of the community, which raised $30,000 in 30 days through an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign, and with the support of several major state grants awarded in the areas of historic preservation and community redevelopment, the major renovations to Springville Art’s Café have been financed.
“We raised some money to stabilize the structure in the beginning of 2013, and then late in 2013, we started to do the interior demolition. We had some major snags related to asbestos. That is the biggest thing that threw the timeline of the café off. The budget just skyrocketed from there. We did what we could with the money that we had,” said Wochensky.
At the end of 2014, the building was completely cleaned out and they rebuilt the lower half of the building façade, true to its historic appearance.
“We had a photo from the 1880s and we were able to recreate what the facade looked like originally,” said Wochensky.
At that time, a new structure was also put in, along with lots of foundation work, a basement rebuild, a new roof, a new rear wall, and several other things.
“We got to a certain point with the project and it more or less sat dormant for a while. We’ve been laying the groundwork for the financing for the rest of the project,” said Wochensky.
The Center for the Arts is ready to embark on what will hopefully be the last phase of work on the building and has full details on the plans for each level.
“We are ready to complete the last phase which is all of the mechanicals – plumbing, drywall, floors. It’s extensive, but it’s actually pretty straightforward from a construction perspective,” said Wochensky.
“The first floor is going to be the Art’s Café and it is intended to be a café in the very traditional definition, with coffee and tea and a bakery,” said Wochensky.
The café is meant to be a community space, according to Wochensky, and will also feature a small, secondary performance space, as well as a library lounge in the back of the building. The first floor will also feature an open set of stairs that leads to a basement with workshop space for projects which require more work, or getting hands dirty, than some of the traditional Center workshops. For example, the basement will house a pottery kiln.
“The second floor will be two residences of the Artists in Residence Program. We will probably rent one for cash flow, ultimately in rotation for visiting artists,” said Wochensky. “We have four theater interns that we bring to town each summer and they do a variety of programs in school.”
Wochensky continued, “The vision is that, say you have a potter stay in the apartment for a month while doing workshops, and then they might stage an exhibit at the main space at end the of their time here.”
Another exciting feature of the café is a green roof, which was a volunteer project.
In order to fund the rest of the project, Wochensky says the Center for the Arts will soon be announcing a community investment program.
“We are going to be launching a community investment program and selling shares of the project to the community and that ties into a historic tax credit program. The short version is that in the coming months while this work is starting, we’re essentially crowd funding the project. There was just such tremendous support and interest in the project from so many people and that’s kind of influenced our thinking in how we are going to pull the rest of the money together,” Wochensky said.
According to Wochensky, it’s still too early to announce a grand opening date for the café, but they are closer than ever before.
“We are intending to open later this year,” Wochensky said. “The community has been patient and nobody is more eager to see it done than we are. It’s just exciting to go in the building and have all of that activity.”
For more information on the plans for the Springville Art’s Café, visit their website: http://artscafespringville.com/.