Pulliam Building: poised for a comeback

It’s an Art Deco icon, but sagging, weary and in desperate need of a facelift and a lot more.

This could be the year that the ball finally gets rolling to rehabilitate Loveland’s historic Pulliam Building, and everyone behind the project is working hard to get a proposal before the Loveland City Council by fall.

The 20,000-square-foot Pulliam Building was constructed in 1936 as a community center with a $20,000 grant from the Pulliam family of Loveland.

At the time, the building, located at 545 N. Cleveland Ave., included the largest auditorium in Northern Colorado and played host to dances, club meetings and other community purposes, according to a history compiled by Laurie Dunklee, a great-granddaughter of the Pulliams.

Over time, the building has become functionally obsolete, according to Loveland City Planner Mike Scholl, needing air conditioning, upgrades to meet fire codes and accessibility requirements and removing the fixed seating to create a more flexible space.

The projected cost for the project is approximately $3 million, Scholl said, half of which is expected to come from public fundraising.

Scholl’s department will need to prepare a request to submit to council, which Scholl expects will happen sometime this fall. City Council made the Pulliam project a priority for 2012, Scholl said.

Any plan presented to council takes careful consideration, Scholl said, because the goal is to get “the most bang for our buck.”

The Pulliam has been an iconic building in the community for a long time, Scholl said, and preserving it is something that requires careful planning, especially because some of the money used will likely come from taxpayer dollars.

The project received a $14,715 grant from the Colorado Historical Society late last year, for the purpose of funding a structural and engineering assessment of the building.

The assessment was required as a precursor to securing state and federal historic landmark status, as well as to make sure the building was still structurally sound.

Supporters of the project say that, with renovation, the building can once again attract business to the heart of the city.

In addition to bringing visitors and their tax dollars downtown, fixing up the Pulliam Building would also reduce the amount that the city spends maintaining the building, according to the project’s website.

The city will spend more than $1.2 million over the next 10 years on the building as it is.

The city’s subsidy of the building would no longer be needed if it were to be redone, according to project proponent Norm Rehme. More than 10 community organizations have already expressed interest in using a renovated Pulliam building, the website said.

Even now, without renovation, the space is used frequently by community members. In 2010, the basement of the Pulliam building was used more than 300 times.

The renovations would result in more than 4,500 square feet of open hardwood floor in the auditorium alone, affordable space for nonprofit organizations, occupancy for over 300 people, and an increase in patrons to downtown amenities, including the recently renovated Rialto theater.

Rehme and other Pulliam project supporters have created Center of Loveland Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to fundraising for the renovations.

To date, about $200,000 has been raised, Rehme said, after beginning fundraising about three years ago.

Currently, the city is spending between $100,000 and $120,000 each year on the Pulliam Building, but bringing in only about $10,000 annually, Rehme said. After the renovations, the city would break even on costs related to the building, he said.

A Loveland resident for more than 30 years, Rehme is passionate about the project and restoring the Pulliam Building to its former grandeur.

“Once you delve into it, you see (the Pulliam) has a greater and greater benefit to the community,” Rehme said.