By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Maybe it was a typical cool summer Wednesday morning at the Third Street Center on June 14.

A little before 8 a.m., name tags, coffee and snacks awaited the more than two dozen community leaders who would soon file through the front doors and into the Calaway Room for the new Communities that Care “key leaders” orientation meeting.

Due to the Communities that Care meeting, tai chi with Lyn Byars/John Norton was bumped down the hall to the Round Room, while in the Down the Rabbit Hole room that abuts the Round Room, SoL Theatre kids were smiling, laughing, jumping around and dancing to “Happy.” Thirty feet away from the SoL Theatre dance party, back in the Round Room, Norton started his tai chi session “ … We’re finding a still place in the middle of chaos … Isn’t that what tai chi is all about?”

A few minutes earlier, Byars told The Sopris Sun, “This place was probably already hopping at 7 a.m. There’s always something going on here.”

Through the rest of the day, several community groups held meetings in various TSC rooms. Chamber of Commerce Director Andrea Stewart brought in bundles of tourist guides to her front entrance office, while next door, Lance Norton poured java at his new Cilundu Coffee shop. Lisa Singer’s paint brushes waited to be put to use in her studio. A pianist rehearsed in the Two Rivers Unitary Universalist room. The Wilderness Workshop folks in their suite off offices were working do to what they do best – protecting the wilderness. At the end of the “long hall,” artist Hone Williams had already headed out to Boulder for the June 15 opening of “Seriously Audacious Situation Surrealism” at the Dairy Arts Center on Walnut Street. Nomi Phillips (of Nomi’s Translation and Book Keeping) met with a client in her small office next to the TSC break room.

In all, the nonprofit Third Street Center, housed in the former Carbondale Elementary School, is home to 36 nonprofits, artists and businesses.

“I really like the Third Street Center’s versatility,” Byars told The Sopris Sun. We won’t name and names here, but Byars said he teaches tai chi in another town’s community room. “Other than my class, the place was just about empty.”


A condensed Third Street Center history on its website reads thusly:

1961: Carbondale Elementary School opens. Additions come in 1967, 1988 and 1989. In December 2006, students move to the larger and modern Crystal River Elementary School.

2006: The Economic Development and Sustainability Plan (The Economic Roadmap), identifies the decommissioned Carbondale Elementary School as community space for the many nonprofit organizations in Carbondale and an incubator of innovation, sustainability and economic activity.

2008: The Town of Carbondale swaps land with the Roaring Fork School District to gain ownership of Carbondale Elementary School bulding. The Town of Carbondale, The Manaus Fund, Alpine Bank, Roaring Fork Community Development Corp and Sustainability Center of the Rockies (SCoR) collaborate to set up a nonprofit structure and finance the renovation of the Carbondale Elementary School to the Third Street Center. Construction begins.

2010: The Third Street Center opens with a grand opening celebration in June.

A bit more background info: according to published reports, in 2008 the Third Street Center nonprofit group signed a 49-year lease with the Town of Carbondale to manage the facility. The TSC received early financial help from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs ($500,000), Garfield County ($135,000) and the Town of Carbondale ($100,000). Much of that money was used for upgrades, repairs and remodeling for the 56-year-old building.

‘Let there be Light’

The Third Street Center raised $90,000 for the first phase of its “Let there be Light” campaign to overhaul the building’s former gym. The Third Street Center took down the basketball hoops and built a stage at the south end of the gym several years ago but a major problem remained. Third Street Center staffers, users and the general public called the windowless gym “The Cave” because even when the overhead lights were on it was pretty dark. Without lights, the gym could have attracted bats except there was no way for them to fly in. The key component to phase one was installing six large windows (three on each side) plus glass double doors. Phase one wraps up soon as the walls are being painted white (remember when they were a moody purple)?

The Third Street Center is currently working to raise $110,000 to complete the gym remodeling project, which will consist of: window shades, new flooring, improved sound and lighting for events, acoustic improvements and additional seating.

“We also need a name for the new space,” says the Third Street Center’s website. To make a suggestion or cast a vote, go to the Third Street Center’s Facebook page.