Interest high in vacated Gilbert building - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Interest high in vacated Gilbert building

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Posted: Monday, March 1, 2004 9:39 am | Updated: 4:44 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

A Gilbert arts organization cannot find a Gilbert stage for its youth theater production.

A private school is short on space.

Gilbert Town Council advisory boards have dreams of a cultural center.

Gilbert native Jake Verrue would like to start a museum to honor town athletes.

What everyone wants is to share a vacant downtown building that once served as Gilbert’s first Mormon church and most recently a Boys and Girls Club.

"We really think a joint use is the way to go," said Helen Hollands, Gilbert Fine Arts Association president.

Gilbert owns the building on the northwest corner of Gilbert and Elliot roads and the eight-acre vacant parcel on the southeast corner, which is also home to the Gilbert Historical Museum and the Gilbert Unified School District

administrative offices. The Town Council will eventually determine future uses for both corners.

Although Gilbert has not officially sought users for the building, the town is leaning toward seeking a five-year lease for noncommercial use. It is considering asking the tenant or tenants to improve and maintain the building that was constructed in the 1910s and expanded over ensuing decades. A report produced for Gilbert last summer estimated a nearly $175,000 expense to remove asbestos and renovate the building.

Nonetheless, the groups are asking the town for a chance.

Hollands said the Gilbert Fine Arts Association is "a 30-year-old organization that has never had a home" and is being forced to move its upcoming performance of "The Wizard of Oz" to Queen Creek.

The St. Anne Little Flower Montessori school, on the campus of St. Anne’s Catholic Church half a mile east of the building, is adding a new grade level every year, development director Alana McCamman said. What began as a preschool in 1997 with less than 100 children now has 230 students in preschool through fourth grade.

"We’re on a small piece of property and running out of options," McCamman said.

The Gilbert Human Relations Commission and Gilbert Arts Advisory Board support creating a Gilbert cultural center that would feature diversity exhibits, presentations, an art gallery, classrooms and audition facilities. Verrue has told the town the museum could also include an after-school learning center.

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