City awarded $750,000 to renovate, expand auditorium

The city of Hastings has been awarded a $750,000 grant by the state through the civic and community center financing fund and intends to use the money to renovate and possibly expand the City Auditorium.

In 2013, several public and private entities in the city sponsored a conference center feasibility study and found that there was demand for additional event and meeting space in the area, specifically a venue that could host convention-size events of 200-400 people.

After research and discussion, the city, in cooperation with several community groups, has targeted the auditorium and downtown Hastings as the location for such a conference facility.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Hastings,” said Mayor Vern Powers in a news release Wednesday. “This community is aggressively pursuing new opportunities for growth and development, and this grant award and potential development project are a clear sign that it is a great time to live in Hastings.

“Our community has an amazing downtown — one of the finest in the state. Public and private entities have made significant investments in to making downtown Hastings a destination for residents and visitors alike.”

The city has determined that the project will mutually benefit the new conference center and the downtown shopping district as residents and visitors coming to the auditorium might also use downtown businesses and restaurants after business hours.

The City Council and members of the community will discuss further details about the project at Monday’s council meeting. At that time, the city will also release an invitation for development proposals for the project. The city is seeking a plan that will update the auditorium as well as the city parking lot south of the building and the surrounding area.

The project timeline will not be determined until a developer is chosen and the redevelopment agreement is approved. The city hopes to select a developer this summer. The mayor will assemble a project committee to review proposals, negotiate with developers and make a recommendation to the city council on the auditorium’s future.

The $750,000 awarded from the state must be used for work on the auditorium building itself, but the city retains some flexibility in the improvements it chooses to pursue.

In 2013, Iowa-based consulting firm VenuWorks completed the conference center feasibility study in Hastings and recommended a $6-8 million, 40,000-square-foot facility to accommodate the demands expressed by the community for a large event center.

Local entities that sponsored the study included the Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Community Redevelopment Authority, Hastings Economic Development Corporation, City of Hastings, CPI, Hastings College, Mary Lanning HealthCare, and the Central Community College Foundation.

The city auditorium project represents a less expensive, alternative solution for that conference center space. The center will be available for weddings, business meetings, conventions, trade shows, conferences and other large events.

To read more, see Thursday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>

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