Linda Towle, president of the Cortez Historic Preservation Board, has applied for a grant to preserve the historic Calkins High School building.
At a meeting of the preservation board on Wednesday, Oct. 4, she presented feedback from the State Historic Fund office on her draft application, which she submitted on behalf of the Montezuma Housing Authority this summer.
The application requests a $190,000 historic preservation grant, with about $60,000 in matching funds, to repair the building’s windows and some of its doors. Towle said most of the comments from the Historic Fund were positive, and she will find out in February whether the housing authority has received the grant.
“I’m optimistic,” she said. “We got nine letters of support, including from (Rep. Scott) Tipton.”
Terri Wheeler, executive director of the housing authority, said the grant would be a first step toward her board of directors’ ultimate goal of transforming the building into affordable housing.
In 2016, the Montezuma-Cortez School District and the housing authority unveiled a plan to convert each of the building’s 18 classrooms into an apartment, which could be rented out to low-income residents. The city council approved a conditional-use permit and site plan for the project, but it was delayed after the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority turned down the developers’ request for a tax credit.
The building, located at 121 E. First St., was built as a high school in 1909 and ended up being used as an elementary and middle school and administrative offices before it was vacated in 2008. It was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
Although she said she believes the housing authority is likely to receive the grant, Towle said finding the matching funds will present a challenge. She said she and the housing authority will request funding from the Ballantine Family Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which she said could bring in a total of $15,000. That would leave them with $45,000 to raise before the project can begin.
Wheeler said she feels it’s important to upgrade the windows because several have been broken by vandals in the past few years, resulting in a lack of security for the rest of the building. But the housing authority has a long way to go before the Calkins building becomes the Calkins Apartments, she said.
“It’s a step, but it’s a pretty minor step at this point,” she said.
During the meeting, the historic preservation board also discussed the results of the 2016 inventory of Main Street historical buildings.
Towle said the inventory revealed two buildings – the former Bru’s House of Color building and the Montezuma County Courthouse – that could be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, as well as several others that would be eligible for the local register. It’s up to the buildings’ owners to apply for that registration, she said.