What's the Story? The Friends' Proposal
Beginning in May 2010, a Collaborative Committee of over 20 interested citizens and professionals began work, covering several months, to draft a proposal to present to the Bozeman City Commission in February 2011. That proposal was presented, incorporating the following points:
- Maintain the Mansion in public ownership as a self-sustaining community event venue
- Seek funding to rehabilitate the 2nd and 3rd floors, and eventually the Carriage House
- Engage anchor tenants, such as MSU's Humanities Institute and others for the upper floors
- Seek donations and revenues to replenish the City’s general fund, completing 1st floor renovation costs
- Join other historic and and cultural entities to pursue a program of heritage tourism towards local economic vitality
- Fulfill the vision of the Story Mansion as the historic and cultural centerpiece of Bozeman, linking downtown with the University
In July 2011, the energy company Exergy came forward with a proposal and offer to purchase for amount of City's request, $392,222. Other interested non-profits did not present proposals.
February 7, 2011: City Commission Votes to Keep the Mansion with Conditions
Thank you to those of you who wrote to the Commissioners, signed the "statement of support," went to the meeting and spoke in favor of the Story remaining in public use and ownership! The Bozeman City Commission voted 4-0 (Commissioner Becker was absent with the flu) to keep the Story Mansion. The motion instructed the City Manager and staff to work with the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Story to craft an agreement in the next 60 days outlining fundraising and operations. Meanwhile, the Commission will consider selling or gifting the Mansion to any established non-profit organization that agrees to preserve it and keep it available to the public.
*It was moved by Cr. Taylor, seconded by Cr. Andrus to instruct the City Manager to enter into negotiations with the Friends of the Story with the following guidelines for a potential Memo of Understanding:
- That any out of pocket loss will be covered by the Friends or other group (that's the direct operating costs) in accordance with the current accounting which does not include labor costs, capital expenditures, or alleged lost tax revenues.
- The $392,000 must be raised within an agreed upon range of 5-8 years (figure it out).
- That measurable benchmarks be agreed upon regarding the $392,000 so that it is clear that the money is being raised in a regular and consistent way so that whatever the end that is decided on the money will be available to the City.
- The rental rates be discussed and recalibrated in accordance with what makes sense and the market.
- That the City continue to collaborate with the Friends on finding appropriate funds for renovation of the 2nd and 3rd floors.
- That the new negotiated MOU contain within it, the general terms and conditions in the prior one, which expressly relate to the development of the Story Mansion as an Educational, cultural and social center with the goal of enhancing Community and Economic vitality in Bozeman Montana.
- That from this time on, we except reservations for use of the Story Mansion by anybody in accord with whatever the rates are through December of 2011so that anyone who wants to rent it knows that whatever happens in the immediate future they will not be deprived of their opportunity to rent it for a wedding or whatever, so we get rid of the ambiguity.
- That it be 60 days when the City Manager comes back to the Commission at a regular meeting with a recommendation that the Friends of the Story can agree upon, but during that 60 day period, if there are any other groups that fit within the above guidelines and want to negotiate along those terms, that we would consider doing that so that we are not just negotiating with one group.
The motion passed 4-0.
Amendment: It was moved by Cr. Mehl, seconded by Cr. Taylor that the Taylor motion be modified to include that the City Manager work with the Friends to have some cash from their reserves given up front as part of the agreement. The motion passed 4-0.
Amendment: It was moved by Cr. Mehl, seconded by Cr. that the Carriage House as public property, that either the City Manager secures an agreement that the City can explore options either alone or in cooperation with the Friends; but that it be spelled out in whatever agreement we have. The motion passed 4-0.
Amendment: It was moved by Cr. Taylor, seconded by Cr. Mehl that part of the negotiation be that in appropriate period of time, the contract be reopened for discussion of who should manage, who should own, as long as the spirit and letter of community center, as indicated in the MOU is part of that discussion (and when I say X you can decide if it now or 3 years from now when things are a little bit clearer). *The intent is to entertain a proposal to receive or purchase the property from a non-profit organization or group that agrees to restore and preserve the property and also make it available to the public in the spirit of the intent expressed in the original motion and if that is not forthcoming to enter into the negotiation that Cr. Taylor proposed. The motion passed 4-0.
Events at the Story
Since completion of first-floor rehabilitation Aug 2009, the following types of public and private events have been held at the mansion:
- Chili Cook-off
- Sorority Fall Formal
- Drawing and Photography Classes
- Rehearsal Dinner
- Mansion Centennial Celebration
- Storytelling Workshop
- Class Reunion
- Memorial Vigil
- Movie Filming
- Victorian Holiday Tea
- City Functions
- And many more...
- Organization Retreat
- Jazz Concert
- Boy Scouts Centennial
- Holiday Party
- Birthday Party
- Art Exhibition
- Historical Society Meeting
- Ice Cream Social
- Graduation Party
- Portrait Photography
- Halloween Trick or Treating
- 1 of only 3 full-block historic mansions in Montana, all city-owned; 60% of the grounds are a city park in a residential zone, open to all
- Rehabilitation completed under budget with public financing
- Friends of the Story volunteers provide promotion, marketing, furnishings, events, tours, using no public funds
- Over 8,000 people used or visited in over 200 events in the past 18 months
- In first year, operated "in the black" by City Parks and Recreation, generating more revenue than any other city park
- "Under budget" restoration with your city, federal funds
- 60% of the grounds is a city park
- Friends events include: Centennial Celebration, "Story Under the Stars" film series, Halloween night, Victorian Holiday Tea, regular tour schedule
- Over 180 members and 50 volunteers are part of self-supporting "Friends of the Story, Inc.", 501(c)(3)
- Link to regional heritage tourism industry, stimulating local business