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Ivy Tech to take over Waldron; center for lifelong learning to move in

By Michael Malik 331-4370 |
April 12, 2010

Ivy Tech Community College could take over ownership of the John Waldron Arts Center as soon as April 21.
Bloomington city and Ivy Tech officials announced today that the college will buy the Waldron’s assets from the city for $150,000 — paving the way for Ivy Tech to become the building’s new owner.

The deal will allow the community college to operate the building as a community arts center and provide a rent-free space for local radio station WFHB, while also basing some of its arts education coursework in the building.

Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart said the college will move its center for lifelong learning into the Waldron, which offers personal enrichment classes that include arts-related courses.
“We will be offering a mixture of both credit and non-credit arts and cultural related courses here,” Whikehart said. “The non-credit courses are open to the general public. So you do not have to be an Ivy Tech student to take our non-credit courses.”

The deal still has to be approved by the Bloomington City Council and Ivy Tech’s state board of trustees. The council will likely discuss the move Wednesday with a final vote on the matter scheduled for April 21. Ivy Tech’s state board will likely discuss the deal Thursday.

Miah Michaelsen, the city’s assistant economic development director for the arts, said the way the deal is written, Ivy Tech could take ownership of the building April 21.

Mayor Mark Kruzan said he’s thrilled with the outcome, not only because it cements the future of the building as a community arts center, but will have a ripple effect on the downtown.

“It’s going to help promote use of the building,” Kruzan said. “We now have a soon to be owner/operator of the facility that will be marketing the facility regionally. That is really something the (Bloomington Area Arts Council), due to its financial issues, wasn’t able to do in recent years.”

Kruzan said the city will take the $150,000 from Ivy Tech and use it to refund the money the city used to buy the Waldron’s assets from the arts council in March.

The arts council and city officials agreed to a deal in early March that saved the building from being shuttered amid the art council’s financial struggles and mounting debt. Also, the city forgave the $270,000 note it held on the building.

The arts council had a mortgage with the city worth $270,000 when the city gave the building to the arts council in 1990. The agreement at that time was that the arts council would not have to pay off the debt provided it maintained the Waldron for at least 30 years as an arts center.

The March deal also stated the arts council had to use the city’s $150,000, which came from tax increment financing district funds, to pay off its debt.

Whikehart said he’s not worried about operating a building that the arts council failed to make money with because the college isn’t dependent upon the revenue of the building to stay open.

“This is a perfect defining moment for a community college,” Whikehart said. “It’s part of our mission. Liberal arts, community service, community engagement are part of our mission, and I think this fits in with what we’re trying to do.”
Ivy Tech will have several deed restrictions on the property, including one that stipulates 70 percent of the Waldron’s space be used as a community arts center and that WFHB have a space there.

Whikehart said the college will provide a space for WFHB rent free, which will save the radio station $125 a month.

“I’ve asked WFHB in their program announcements, in their station announcements, to say that they’re a partner with Ivy Tech Community College,” Whikehart said. “We will get much more out of the relationship with WFHB than collecting $125 rent.”

Also, Whikehart said, there will be internship opportunities for Ivy Tech students at the radio station.
“We will now have a guaranteed place in the Waldron in perpetuity, rent free,” said Will Murphy, station manager at WFHB.

While a tentative deal has been reached, there are still some issues to iron out. Whikehart said Ivy Tech will sit down with local performing arts groups to revisit the rate structure for the building’s spaces.

“We will continue to rent the performance space, the theater space, to performing arts partner,” Whikehart said.
There’s also a possibility, Whikehart said, that rent could be deferred for certain events in exchange for sponsorship opportunities.

Whikehart said he believes the college could take over ownership of the building within the next six to seven weeks. “We want to be here in time to operate the children’s summer programing,” Whikehart said.

The Waldron crisis made headlines in January, when the arts council announced it needed to raise $120,000 or it would be forced to close the Waldron March 1. Since then, all paid staff members at the Waldron have been laid off and volunteers are running its operations.

Waldron Arts Center

Miah Michaelsen

Ivy Tech chancellor John Whikehart, Bloomington mayor Mark Kruzan and WFHB general manage Will Murphy at this morning's announcement. Mike Malik | Herald-Times

Copyright: 2010