Red Lodge, Montana is a small town well known for its beautiful natural setting, outdoor recreation opportunities, and as a gateway community to Yellowstone National Park. Much of the community’s economy is reliant on tourism and the town faces the challenge of sustaining an off-season economy. The primary goal of the CIRD workshop was to create a plan to rehabilitate and repurpose the Old Roosevelt School building to become a dedicated performance and multi-use cultural arts space that will also serve as an economic driver for the town. The project also focused on improving walkability and accessibility to the building from the town center while preserving the building’s historic character and heritage.
The Red Lodge Area Community Foundation (RLACF) hosted the workshop and over the course of the two-and-a-half days, workshop participants engaged in visioning activities, site evaluations, drawing sessions, and business planning exercises led by members of the workshop’s Resource Team. The results of these activities contributed to the development of concept designs for the site and theater space. The workshop process also refined the goals of the project and shifted the focus towards developing a clearer action plan to develop the project successfully and sustainably over time. For example, workshop participants realized that developing a clear mission statement would give the project greater purpose and help articulate their vision for Old Roosevelt to the rest of the town’s residents. During the closing comments on day three of the workshop, Ms. Timmons charged her steering committee with organizing a several focus groups made up of different stakeholder groups in order to work towards identifying a clear mission statement to guide the reprogramming of Old Roosevelt above and beyond consideration of the physical aspects of the building itself.
In the months following the workshop, supporters of the Old Roosevelt School and workshop participants formed several focus groups to identify the different needs of the different potential users of the new community space. Focus groups met on the topics of community kitchen use, educational and rental spaces, conference and reception needs, visual arts, theater production, musical performance, dance, and outdoor space needs. Each of these focus groups met to identify all potential users of the space, how income could be generated, the most important space needs, possible locations for activities in the building, and how the spaces could be composed.
Refinement of the Old Roosevelt School’s goals and mission since the workshop has also allowed RLACF to continue building the project’s capital campaign. Most recently, RLACF hired a consultant to assist in developing a business plan for the school building, which will further demonstrate to donors their project needs and establish how the renovation of the building will be scheduled.
RLACF has also been involved in a wayfinding study for the entire community, funded by the Montana Chamber of Commerce, to develop better connections between the school building and the downtown core, which is separated by three blocks of mostly residential.