A historic bayside building could get new life, thanks to a request by the Traverse City Film Festival to use the Con Foster Museum building in Clinch Park as a temporary venue during this summer’s weeklong event, slated for July 30-Aug. 4.
The Con Foster building is one of several options being explored, says Deb Lake, executive director of the film festival.
“Beyond [Con Foster], we are looking at options for a second screen at the State Theatre, but there’s nothing we’re ready to talk about at this point,” she says.
The request likely will go before the city commission early next month, says City Manager Ben Bifoss. If approved, the city simply would be permitting the space to be used, similar to arrangements made for other city-owned buildings during festival week.
“We have a contract with them, and this would be added to their contract,” Bifoss says.
The Con Foster building, which operated as a museum for more than 70 years and has in years since housed the Great Lakes Children’s Museum as well as community events and workshops, is an attractive spot for a film venue given the in-progress upgrades to the surrounding property, says Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes.
“Con Foster is a real possibility for them and offers great opportunities,” Estes says. “What’s making it a real possibility is the issue with upgrading the tunnel—there will be parking across the street at Grandview Parkway and people could go to this facility via a tunnel that gives safe passage to the venue and Open Space.”
“I applaud Traverse City Film Festival and Deb Lake that they’ve recognized the opportunity the building offers,” he says.
The cost of any building upgrades needed should the film festival use the space remains unclear, however.
“The big issue will be can they put enough money into the structure to make it a viable scenario,” Estes says, adding that the city would retain ownership of the building and would need to enter into “some kind of agreement to lease it out long-term.”
However, film festival officials are only saying they’re interested in using the facility for this summer’s event. The issue of upgrades to the building long has been on city leaders’ minds, separate from this request, though Bifoss says nothing concrete has been determined.
“There’s no funding currently identified,” he says.
Estes says improving the facility is a huge capital investment—likely one the city won’t take on.
“This is all part of this idea of trying to reinvent what the Open Space is,” he says. “The City is not going to throw dollars at this project, so it has to be the user group. It has been looked at through other groups … but no one's been able to put together the package.”
Ticker writer Beth Milligan contributed to this report.