Gypsum Annex building evolves from annoyance to amenity for town, Habitat for Humanity
GYPSUM — The log residence perched on the hillside above Lundgren Theater in Gypsum used to be an annoyance for the town.
Today, the Gypsum Town Hall annex building — as the structure is now known — is an amenity.
Last week, when representatives from Habitat for Humanity of Eagle and Lake counties presented a report to the Gypsum Town Council, they highlighted how the annex building has been an important part of their success.
“Groups come in and stay there. It’s a huge impact for us, being able to have the big groups come in,” said Kalie Palmer, local Habitat for Humanity director of operations. “It’s a super fun way to work with the town, and all of these groups are critical for us.”
In addition to providing a place for Habitat for Humanity groups to bivouac during home-building events, the annex building also serves as housing for Americorps volunteers. Community groups, including Young Life, meet at the site. In the past, the annex was just that — the site for town offices when operations outgrew space at Gypsum Town Hall.
The town has owned the former residence for 14 years, but initially, Gypsum didn’t really want to.
Lighting the way
Back in the early 2000s, the Gypsum Annex Building was a private home. But it was a private residence located next to the town’s ballfield complex. Subsequent improvements at the site resulted in a lawsuit from the homeowners.
“When the ballfield lights went up, the judge said the town should probably buy the house,” Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said.
In 2004, that’s what Gypsum did. In March of that year, the town paid $570,000 for the residence, but it didn’t really have a plan for the structure. But it didn’t take long for the community to find ways to use the building
Before the Gypsum Public Library was built, it operated out of the north wing of Gypsum Town Hall. With the library occupying that space, the town decided to house its community development, special events and assistant town manager/human resources departments at the annex building.
When the new library opened, those departments moved back down the hill, and for awhile, the annex was mainly a storage site for the town — holding the fencing, tents and coolers for Gypsum Daze.
Shroll noted that the interior design of the structure, which included a spiral staircase that didn’t meet current code, limited public use. However, the former residence did meet the needs of Young Life and other community groups.
Then, about three years ago, Habitat for Humanity came forward with a request to use the annex to house volunteer groups who come to Gypsum to help build houses. Because the annex is a former residence, it has a working kitchen and bathrooms. There are carpeted surfaces throughout the building where groups can throw down sleeping bags. A new partnership was born.
In exchange for the town’s willingness to let groups stay at the Annex building, Habitat for Humanity volunteers completed a staircase remodel. The organization has also provided furnishings, culled from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore donations.
Shroll noted that Habitat for Humanity loves the fact that they can offer a place for out-of-town volunteers to bed down, and they enjoy the location.
“It’s within walking distance of about everything,” Shroll said. “It saves everyone involved a lot of money.”
Beyond Habitat for Humanity volunteers and community groups, the Annex is also popular with local law enforcement agencies who train at the site.
“Law enforcement likes it mainly because it’s more of a realistic setup for training,” Shroll said.
As town officials consider all these uses at the annex, they noted that a contentious litigation actually beget a benefit.
“The town never really wanted to own the building, but it has served the public well,” Shroll said. “It’s nice, after owning it for so long, to see the public use.”
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.