The beginning of innovation: Town discusses being grant sponsor for Powerhouse renovation


By Chris Mannara

Staff Writer

At a regular meeting of the Pagosa Springs Town Council on July 23, council discussed the town potentially serving as the fiscal sponsor for the Pagosa Innovation Center (PIC), which is seeking grant funding to establish co-working space locally.

The PIC is seeking funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in order to renovate the old Powerhouse building for the project, according to Town Manager Andrea Phillips.

Phillips noted she was approached by PIC co-founder Michael Whiting about this request.

“Michael and his partners are planning on applying for this grant. It’s a U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Grant and they are asking for support from the town to serve as a fiscal sponsor for the grant,” she said.

According to Phillips, the EDA awarded $1.5 billion to assist communities that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and $193 million of that total is available for a five-state region that includes Colorado.

“The funds must be awarded by the EDA by September 2020 and examples of projects include resiliency planning, entrepreneurial support projects to assist in economic diversification, construction of infrastructure and facilities to support economic recovery,” Phillips said. “The applicants have to clearly demonstrate how the project will help the community respond and recover from the pandemic.”

Additionally, the PIC needs to show how its project aligns with the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy through Region 9, Phillips explained.

The PIC is requesting $2 million in EDA funds that would be matched with other sources for a total of $2.5 million in project costs, Phillips explained further.

“If we do decide to move forward with this, and they get the grant, we would want the Pagosa Innovation Center to help us cover our costs that we might incur from this,” Phillips said, citing a special audit or legal fees as examples.

Phillips explained that she believes there is a lot of possibility for the “underutilized” Powerhouse building.

“It’s in a very visible location, so I think they’ve got some really interesting plans there that could help with economic and community development,” she said, adding that space for co-working and high-speed broadband are planned.

Council member Matt DeGuise commented that he is in favor of the PIC project involving the Powerhouse building, adding that it could even be a good project for the Pagosa Springs Urban Renewal Authority.

“I think these are the kinds of projects that we want to support and I’m behind going to the next stage for staff to move forward,” council member Rory Burnett said.

Agenda documentation for the meeting notes that town staff will draft a resolution and letter of application for the grant for council to review at its next meeting.