Of the Baker City Herald

Board members of the Crossroads Arts Center say they are keeping an open mind as they consider a possible move from their rented home on Main Street to more permanent digs: the old Carnegie Library.

We arent committed to this place, said Maryalys Urey, but we are committed to finding a permanent home.

Were an interested tenant, said Crossroads executive administrator Ann Mehaffy. Were probably to first base.

Crossroads won a grant to study the century-old buildings seismic stability and the modifications that would be necessary under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Larry Nicholson, with HDN Architects in Portland, met with board members recently for a tour and a photo session.

Baker City has agreed to partner with Crossroads to help pay for the feasibility study.

Nicholson, who has also worked on Baker Citys City Hall projects the past six years, said he will have a report on his library findings ready within two months.

Ive admired this building for a long time, he said, looking around at what was, during the 1980s, Crossroads home. Its an honor to work on this project. Its a wonderful old building, and its in such great shape.

Armed with the buildings original blueprints and videotape of Saturdays walk-through, Nicholson will consult with structural engineers, who can determine the buildings structural merit just by watching the tape and viewing the drawings.

Besides the obvious historical charm of the 1908 building, board members say they yearn for a more permanent home. The current Center, at 1901 Main Street, is owned by an out-of-state landlord and is currently for sale.

Board members also say that the many services Crossroads provides from dance and art instruction to stage plays require a building more suited for multiple, simultaneous use.

Board members joke that at their current location, the reflective mood created by landscape painting instructors can be destroyed by the sound of stage doors slamming during dramatic play rehearsals.

Mehaffy has scheduled a field trip for the board April 28. The group will visit retrofitted, remodeled Carnegie libraries in Pendleton and Walla Walla that now serve as arts centers.

The Pendleton Arts Council secured $1.8 million in grants and community support to transform its old library.

That Italian Renaissance building is just off the scale in beauty, Mehaffy said. Its everything the community could have dreamed of. The Walla Walla facility is a red brick version of what we have here.

Mehaffy thinks it would cost between $500,000 and $600,000 just to bring the Baker City facility up to modern code.

Part of the grant that Crossroads won to study the Carnegie Library includes a community forum so the board can receive public input about the possibility of moving to the old library.

My fingers are crossed for the library building, Mehaffy said. I think it would be great, and I tell people not to get too caught up on everything that the new building needs before it can be Crossroads new home. We need to think really big and dream about it.

Even if Crossroads finds a new home off Main Street, Mehaffy and most people she has talked to would like to see the Center maintain an art gallery and shop presence on Main Street.

Its a source of pride for the community to have it front and center on Main Street, she said. It helps make Baker City special.