Back in April, Boulder’s eTown radio program announced that it received a grant from the Fort Collins-based organization, the Bohemian Foundation. The “challenge grant” meant the foundation would match any donations made to the development of eTown Hall, a new venue, recording studio and community space that would cost $5.5 million.
It’s been about six months, and construction of the new space is well underway in an old church at the corner of 16th and Spruce Streets. The bulk of the remaining work is in the venue space — eTown is already moved in and doing post-production, editing and administrative work from the new offices.
“What’s interesting about this project is that eTown, after 20 years of being a radio show, is positioning itself so that it can continue to be relevant…and nimble in capturing and distributing content in any format,” said eTown host and founder Nick Forster.
In all, the new space will include a 200-seat live music venue, a recording studio, audio and video editing studios, a coffee shop and eTown’s offices.
As part of eTown’s effort to make eTown Hall as green as possible, they’ve also installed close to 300 solar panels on the roof, some of which are already helping to power the building. They’ve also set up a program in which supporters can adopt one of those panels, and received updates on what kind of power it’s generating.
“It’s kind of a cool concept,” Forster said. “People want to support eTown Hall, they want to be a part of it ,and this gives people an actual, tangible way to participate.”
There’s definitely been a lot of progress, but Forster said eTown still needs around $2 million to complete the project. Zack Littlefield, who does audience development and marketing for eTown, said part of the difficulty lies in the fact that eTown is a nonprofit radio station, so they have to raise this money on top of what they already need to bring in just stay up and running.
The grand opening is planned for Earth Day 2012, though it might take a little longer to finish setting up the recording studio.
Forster said he wants eTown Hall to fill some gaps in the Boulder music scene. The venue will be something in between the big theaters like the Fox and the smaller places that double as bars or coffee shops. The recording studio, he hopes, will develop a “recording culture” downtown, bolstered by the surrounding restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.
“Boulder has a long and proud history of being a destination for people to come and make records,” he said. “I think our recording studio, when it’s done, is also going to be one of those places that’s a popular spot where people can come and make records.”
The hope is that artists won’t just pass through to record a radio show. Forster hopes the community vibe will entice them to just hang out, both in eTown Hall and around town.
“It’s gonna be really cool because it’s not just going to be for eTown,” Littlefield said. “It’s going to be for the community of Boulder.”