The struggle has been long and hard for the people who had a vision to restore the Plaza Building and repurpose it instead of tearing it down.

The struggle has been long and hard for the people who had a vision to restore the Plaza Building and repurpose it instead of tearing it down. That struggle began almost seven years ago, with the razing of the Kit Carson Hotel, a historic landmark which caused many regrets but had gone too far to save from the wrecking ball. On Thursday evening, former Mayor Lynn Horner said, “There are visionaries and there are people who can organize and get things done. I am a visionary. These are the people who are taking action.”

Barbara Ingles, a member of South East Colorado Creative Partnership as well as the assistant manager of the Crossroads MarketPlace, read the mission statement from Crossroads as inspiration for a small group of dedicated people coming together to do good for society. The people behind the work on the Plaza Building will not profit personally, but will enjoy seeing the 4-H students and agriculture people enjoy the commercial kitchen and local artisans of all varieties enjoying the rooms set up for creative projects on the other side of the ground floor. Chairperson Nancy Bennett and Juiie Worley are in charge of planning the lower floor. The upper floor will be devoted to downtown apartments for use of traveling professionals, such as the traveling nurses who work a three-month stint at Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center.

Rebecca Goodwin, writer of the grant proposals, has received money for Phase I, whose purpose is stabilization of the building. She wants people not to be alarmed when they see cranes moving in, probably in early June. They will be building scaffolding for the walls to make the workplace safe for the workers who will be taking out interior load-bearing beams softened by water damage. She pointed out that if the roof had been fixed when the original estimate of $39,000 applied, the savings would have been about $400,000 less than what the procedure will cost now, since the supporting structure has deteriorated.

Goodwin received another round of applause for her designation as the recipient of the 2018 Dana Crawford Award for excellence in Historic Preservation (to be awarded in Denver in May). She thanked the South East Colorado Creative Partnership for the able assistance in being the sponsor for the financials which will enable the renovation to happen. She explained the tax credit provisions and the hope that private investors such as the Gates Family, El Pomar, etc., will help with the matches for the grants, but declared confidence in fundraisers for any gaps in financing. Having Cynthia Nieb as Economic Development/Urban Renewal Director is a great advantage, said Goodwin. Nieb has been reading grants for the State Historical Preservation Organization for more than 20 years and was the guardian angel for the grants which restored the City Park Wall.

Mayor Jeffri Pruyn counts the Plaza Building as a step toward becoming a full member of Downtown Colorado. Many of the problems foreseen were not as great as assumed, she said, especially the asbestos abatement. Some of the asbestos may be encapsulated, and the basement asbestos from runoff is at a percentage too low to be required by the state to be abated. She is also happy about La Junta’s receiving the state’s highest score for an opportunity zone.