Renovations planned for historic art museum

More historic-renovation work will begin in downtown Fort Collins in coming months, thanks to the efforts of Brinkman Partners.

Following its purchase of the building that houses the Fort Collins Museum of Art, Brinkman is working on plans to renovate portions of the building, repairing the building’s heating and cooling system, and making other improvements over the course of a year.

As it stands, the museum takes up the entire main floor of the building and portions of the top two floors with exhibits, totaling about 50 percent of the building’s 21,000 square feet. Other spaces in the building are rented out to artists and as offices.

Brinkman will work to keep the current tenant mix in place, according to Kevin Brinkman, principal at Brinkman Partners. The company will meet with assorted stakeholders to determine what renovations will take place.

No price was disclosed when the deal was announced earlier this month. But the museum will retain ownership of the main floor of the building, where it will continue to host exhibits, drawing some 20,000 people each year.

The museum facility, located at 201 S. College Ave. in Old Town, was originally constructed in 1912 to be used as a post office. In 1972, the post office moved to the Federal Building at the corner of Howes and Olive streets.

In 1977, renovations began to convert the building into office space. In 1990, a group of artists purchased the building for $200,000 to open the community’s first nonprofit art museum.

Brinkman said his company has long admired the architecture and history of the building, which has been part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.

“We feel we have acquired not only an important part of Fort Collins history but a work of art as well,” Brinkman said. “We plan to keep it as an important part of the city’s business and cultural fabric.”

Although specific ideas about the renovations are not yet in place, the potential exists for a small café or coffee shop to help bring patrons to the museum, Brinkman said.

In addition to the three floors above ground, the museum also has a basement that is accessible from the adjacent Oak Street Plaza.

Brinkman will meet with the city to determine what may be done to work with the Oak Street Plaza, a big draw downtown, especially for parents with young children.

One piece of the renovation that must happen is making repairs to the building’s aging infrastructure.

Last fall, two air-handling units in the building failed, causing water damage to the building’s interior. Artwork in the museum at the time was unharmed, but it became clear that something needed to be done to prevent a similar situation from recurring.

The museum explored several options before deciding to sell the building to a buyer that would allow the museum to stay intact on the main floor but that could help with necessary repairs.

The partnership with Brinkman will help the museum’s coffers, although it will reduce the footprint of the museum’s gallery space, according to Marianne Lorenz, executive director of the museum.

On the other hand, “as a nonprofit whose budget depends on private donations and grants, we will no longer be responsible for the expensive and extensive renovations and ongoing maintenance needed to keep the building viable,” Lorenz said.

Better yet, she said, “we’ll be able to more directly apply our funds to bringing in high-quality exhibitions.”

Acquiring buildings for renovation is not Brinkman Partners’ bread-and-butter, but the company is always keeping its eyes open for new opportunities, especially in the downtown area, according to Kevin Brinkman.

One of the company’s mixed-use developments downtown was hit by fire last October.

It didn’t wait long before beginning work to reconstruct its Mason Street Flats. The four-story, 30-unit project will be finished Sept. 1, about five months later than it was supposed to be finished.

A second phase of the Mason Street development, announced in March, will be constructed right next to the first, ready to open in the first part of 2013.

Like other construction and real estate companies in the area, Brinkman is experiencing growth in its ranks, hiring 12 new employees in the last six months and planning on hiring five more within 30 days.

Molly Armbrister covers real estate for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, or

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, or

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