Frankfort Historic Landmark Arts Center
A public/non-profit partnership to 1) preserve the area’s maritime heritage, 2) obtain waterfront property and views for the public trust, 3) advance the city’s cultural economic development goals and 4) benefit the city as a regional hub for the arts, in conjunction with their renovated downtown theater. The regional arts community has two galleries and three classroom spaces for art, music, literature, dance and exercise classes, as well as a professional test kitchen for the culinary arts. The venue is rented for receptions several times a week and proceeds are used to sustain the art center. The center increases downtown traffic and utilizes area businesses.
- Saved an historic landmark and complemented maritime heritage, keeping waterfront property in public trust.
- Drew successfully upon more than 500 local donors for fundraising and strengthened volunteer base of support, building social capital.
- Provided perfect lighting, atmosphere and space for the arts.
- Provided an intriguing, historic and attractive location for receptions.
- Achieved LEED Platinum certification and uses only natural cleaning products.
- Renovated kitchen for culinary class instructors and caterers to facilitate use of the site as a reception venue, building in financial sustainability for the Arts Center.
- Complemented a recently renovated, historic downtown theater, providing a hub for the regional arts community and stimulating cultural economic development.
- Received grant (city) to extend wi-fi downtown to Betsie Bay and Lake Michigan Beach. Received grant (center) to complete pottery building (former garage) connector, including a gift shop aimed at sustainability.
- Increased downtown traffic and business, including to several caterers, florist, lodging establishments, bars and restaurants.
One full-time and one part-time employee, 35 active volunteers, 30 instructors, arts patrons, arts students, about 2,500 visiting residents and about 4,750 out-of-town visitors (2,500 for the art center itself and another 2,250 during rental occasions).
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
When reinventing oneself for the new economy, be authentic. Repurposing the Coast Guard Station preserved the city’s maritime heritage, and complemented the region’s other attractions.
The city had previously purchased the Frankfort Lighthouse and was prepared to submit a Letter of Interest and application for the Coast Guard property.
The Arts Center donors and volunteers were committed. The Center was outgrowing its previous location, demonstrating the community’s support and enthusiasm for the arts. The group had the momentum, determination and creativity necessary to take on the adaptive reuse challenges. The location’s lighting, space and views also proved motivational. Community residents were supportive of maintaining the property for the public.
Adaptive reuse of historical buildings is challenging. The Arts Center hired an architectural firm specializing in adaptive reuse of historical structures. The firm had experience with the National Parks Service and the State Historic Preservation Office and had worked on the local Point Betsie Lighthouse and Petoskey’s Crooked Tree Arts Center projects.
While the property was virtually free, the adaptive reuse carried a price tag of $3.3 million. A skillful combination of grant sources was necessary for success. Demonstrated financial support from the community helped to secure the sources and demonstrated commitment continues to yield grant dollars eight years later. Experience with grant sources and writing is a key component of success.
BUILD TENANT SUSTAINABILITY
Fundraising must remain a priority for the organization. Further efforts toward sustainability include the proceeds from the center’s rental for group functions and a future gift shop.
ANIMATE THE SPACE
There is frequent traffic at the center for exhibits, events and classes. The center has more than 30 instructors, so class offerings and attendees are continually changing, creating a buzz in the community. The changing art, the interesting history and the breathtaking views combine to make the center a successful "third place" people seek to experience again and again. Catered receptions several times a week add to the excitement and regional buzz.
MAKE THE INTANGIBLE TANGIBLE
Data can be sexy. Keeping track of the number of events, attendees and hours can provide tangible evidence as to how much a project like the center contributes to the community as it both utilizes other business services and attracts people who then patronize other businesses. To the extent possible, track correlations directly related to help demonstrate economic value.