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Consultant begins plotting future of historic Crump Theatre

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Danielle McClelland, executive director for the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, welcomes an audience to an Ani DiFranco concert in 2012.
Danielle McClelland, executive director for the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, welcomes an audience to an Ani DiFranco concert in 2012.

Danielle McClelland meets backstage at teh Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington with John Mellencamp.
Danielle McClelland meets backstage at teh Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington with John Mellencamp.

Renovating and reopening the historic Crump Theatre could require the city of Columbus to own and maintain the facility.

That’s one early observation of Danielle McClelland, executive director of the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in Bloomington, who is beginning her work to create a five-year business plan for the Crump.

McClelland said she could see a nonprofit group operating and managing the Crump, under city ownership. That’s how the Buskirk-Chumley operates.

The city could take on a business model that calls for ownership of the theater, but nothing is certain until McClelland’s business plan is complete, Mayor Kristen Brown said.

What’s the cost?

The Crump steering committee has asked the city to consider spending more than $10 million to renovate the Crump into a theater with 450 seats.

The Crump, 425 Third St., would retain its facade, lobby and lounge, which would all be upgraded.

The audience area would be reworked and the stage rebuilt; sound and light locks would be added; seating and sight lines would be improved. The facility would have about 300 seats on the first floor and about 150 in the balcony.

Excess space in the balcony could be turned into a meeting room or provide much-needed storage for resident companies.

The committee projects the renovated facility could be used for community theater and musical events currently held in churches and community centers. A 40-foot-wide stage is still too narrow for The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic but would serve nearly all other uses.

Cost: $10,801,000.

Because the cost to renovate the Crump will exceed $500,000, the Columbus City Council will have the final say on the fate of the 125-year-old theater in downtown Columbus.

Council members have stated that before they vote they want to see a business plan that shows how the theater can be renovated into a viable, self-supporting entertainment facility.

McClelland was hired July 21 by the Columbus Redevelopment Commission to create the business plan, for which she will be paid $18,000.

Using her experience from running the Buskirk-Chumley, McClelland said public and private financial investments will be crucial to reopening the Crump, which has been closed since late December.

Some of McClelland’s ideas differ from the $10.8 million renovation scenario selected by the Crump steering committee in May. Rather than downsizing the theater to 450 seats, for example, which a consultant recommended to city officials in May, McClelland said she thinks seating should remain at its current size of about 600.

The seating should have flexibility to allow for different kinds of events, she said.

A case for partnerships

McClelland said partnerships should be pursued, much like one the Buskirk-Chumley has with Indiana University.

Columbus has a stronger business community than Bloomington, she said, adding that the city needs to seek a business client that would book the theater often. Columbus-based Cummins Inc., for example, currently uses YES Cinema for some of its company meetings.

If a business client made a commitment for ongoing use of the Crump, it would strengthen the case for increased investment in presentation and communication technology, she said.

McClelland, former program director for the Columbus Area Arts Council, said she had not realized the number of downtown businesses and activities surrounding the Crump until visiting Columbus recently.

“The downtown area and who is downtown is 100 percent different than what it was 12 years ago when I worked here. I think that’s fantastic,” she said. “That’s essential. You need to have an active demographic. There are people who are likely to go out and do something.”

But the Crump faces challenges that could hurt its chances of reopening, McClelland said.

For example, it needs extensive renovation and lacks a client base, she said. It will need ongoing financial community support for the first few years after reopening in order to be successful, she added.

Private investment probably will play a crucial role in reopening the Crump, McClelland said. But if it were realistic for the Crump to operate privately, it would have happened already, she said.

“And if someone did that, more than likely what you’re going to get is a Hard Rock Café,” she said.

Bloomington’s experience

The Buskirk-Chumley went through a $4.25 million renovation, which was completed in 1999. That came after it was donated by Kerasotes Theaters, now AMC, to the Bloomington Area Arts Council.

A $3.5 million fundraising campaign was used to pay for the work, supplemented by a bank loan when fundraising efforts were no longer successful, McClelland said.

The theater was nearly $1 million in debt before it reopened, creating a financial crisis that lasted about a year until the city of Bloomington stepped in and took over operations.

McClelland said the theater now is owned by the city and overseen by the city parks department, similar to the relationship Columbus Department of Parks and Recreation has with The Commons.

The city of Bloomington created BCT Management Inc. as a nonprofit group to operate the theater. The city also maintains the property because it is classified as a city park, she said.

While she’s not yet sure whether Columbus should follow the same steps that Bloomington city officials took, McClelland does think it will take some public funding to get the theater back on its feet.

Tracy Souza, president and CEO of the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, said she is glad that McClelland was tapped to do the business plan and is hopeful it will bring interest from new potential owners.

“If it can provide a platform for a group or an organization to step forward and say they’d like to take it on, I think it would be terrific,” she said. “A business plan without a business owner is a plan.”

Souza said the Columbus Capital Foundation, which owns the Crump, is happy to own the property and maintain it as long as it becomes a place the community wants. If the city is interested in a similar operating scenario to that of the Buskirk-Chumley, the foundation would be open to it, she said.

McClelland will start by analyzing business plans of peer theaters in the area and throughout the country, including the Buskirk-Chumley.

“I kind of think the Buskirk-Chumley Theater and the way we run it does pretty darn well, but of course Columbus is a community with some of the assets that we don’t have and a lack of some assets that we do,” she said. “I’m hoping to gain some more knowledge that I don’t currently have.”

Once she completes the business plan in the next 60 days or so, McClelland will present the plan to both the redevelopment commission and the city council.

Looking toward the future at The Crump

Business plan

Danielle McClelland has been hired by the Columbus Redevelopment Commission to create a business plan for a renovated Crump Theatre, which would include the following:

Research and investigate similar venues to determine best practices in structure, operations and programming, including:

  • Venues in similar communities identified by the Jones & Phillips report
  • Venues in nearby communities of Edinburgh, Franklin, North Vernon, Nashville and Bloomington

Research and investigate potential renters, including:

  • Columbus Indiana Philharmonic
  • Columbus Symphony Orchestra
  • Columbus City Band
  • Mill Race Players
  • Columbus Bluegrass Jubilee
  • Columbus Area Arts Council
  • Americana Music Series
  • Church congregations without a permanent facility
  • Large business meetings
  • Dance studio recitals
  • Indiana University Center for Art + Design Columbus speakers

Research projected impact on Columbus from a thriving Crump Theatre, including:

  • Economic
  • Tourism
  • Civic engagement
  • Quality of life

Develop a business plan for the Crump that includes:

  • Narrative “Case for the Crump” describing results of research
  • Recommendation for ownership and maintenance of the building
  • Structure of nonprofit entity
  • Recommendation for a nonprofit entity to manage the building
  • Structure of relationship between ownership and management
  • Organizational chart and job descriptions for needed personnel
  • Strategic plan for initial launch and first five years
  • Budgets for all five years

Source: The City of Columbus

Crump renovations

Lafayette-based architecture firm Jones & Phillips listed several code violations at the Crump Theatre when presenting a study about the building and its potential future use.

If the building needed any major renovations that would require a building permit, it would automatically fail to comply with the following code requirements under the International Building Code:

  • It has no over-stage smoke venting or fire curtain system.
  • The stage floor does not meet current structural code.
  • It does not meet current seismic code.
  • The existing Crump fly house above the stage is not capable of supporting current touring shows.
  • Its mechanical room is unsafe for people and equipment.
  • It lacks a sprinkler system, functioning fire escapes on the building’s west side and the required number of exits.
  • It does not meet requirements within the Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Law.

Danielle McClelland

Danielle McClelland is founding executive director of BCT Management Inc. (BCTM), the private nonprofit agency that manages the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on behalf of the city of Bloomington.

She received national recognition from the American Performing Arts Presenters as an emerging leader. She worked closely with Indiana State Historic Preservation Department to initiate the Indiana Historic Theater Initiative and has participated in the Indiana Presenters Network for 15 years.

McClelland founded and served for 10 years as the producing director of the PRIDE Film Festival, Bloomington’s annual LGBTQ film festival, then successfully transitioned the festival into its own nonprofit. She now annually presents 10 to 20 major label nationally touring concerts, such as Lyle Lovett, Indigo Girls, Joan Baez, Keb Mo, Regina Spektor, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Los Lobos and Arlo Guthrie.

She spearheaded what is now a citywide partnership between the Indiana University Arts Administration Program and local arts agencies, creating positions at arts nonprofits that are paid through federal work-study funds.

She initiated and completed a $100,000 capital campaign to renovate the BCT Box Office and concession area, resulting in an annual revenue increase to the organization of more than 15 percent. Her annual cash and in-kind fundraising for Buskirk-Chumley has equaled nearly $100,000.

Active as a writer and filmmaker, McClelland earned a master’s degree in fine arts in creative writing from Goddard College in 2011.

She is an adjunct professor at Indiana University, guiding students through topics on “Art and Social Change” and “Writing for the Arts.”

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