Chamber of Commerce President Natalie Cummings said she imagines the Taste of Brighton festival of food returning and moving to the area east of 4th Avenue on Bridge Street, taking over the parking lots surrounding the Anythink Brighton Library and the Armory Performing Arts Center – with the historic depot right at the center.
“We’d like to utilize the indoor space at the depot as well as the outdoor space as a venue with the armory, taking over the parking lot that connects the two,” Cummings told City Councilors at the Jan. 11 study session. “We’d bring in food trucks and possibly live music to bring that event back. The idea is that it would continue to grow.”
But the chamber needs to be in control of the depot first, and the chamber and the Brighton City Council made some progress on that front.
The City Council said they were fine with a lease for the depot during their Jan 11 study session. City Manager Michael Martinez said councilors should see the lease on their Jan. 18 consent agenda.
The proposed 36-month lease would see the city charge the chamber $9 per square foot for the upper portion of the historic train depot, located at 269 E. Bridge St. – about $18,00 per year. Under the proposed agreement, the city would waive the first three months of rent, with the first $1,500 monthly payment coming due on May 1.
The lease covers the upper portion of the depot, roughly 2,000 square feet. The lease allows the chamber to use the basement as storage.
It’s not the first time the city has made plans for the depot, and not the first time the city and the Chamber of Commerce have been close on using the depot.
The building was used as a train depot for Union and Pacific Railroad for most of the 20th century, before being decommissioned in 1970 and moved to the current site in 1980. It had housed restaurants, offices and a bike shop until the city purchased it in 2018, approving leases for the space with a restaurant and the chamber in 2019. Both agreements fell apart quickly, and the space has been vacant since then.
Councilor Mary Ellen Pollack said she is skeptical about the depot and the chamber’s intentions there.
“What happens now, do we give you three months free, and then you’re gone again?” Pollack said. “The chamber has not exactly earned my trust. It’s not just for me, but for the residents. And when you make a commitment, why don’t you keep it?”
City Manager Michael Martinez said it’s a different chamber now than it was in 2019.
“One thing to be cognizant of is that there are all new players involved now, including Natalie and the chamber board,” Martinez said. “You have all new staff. And at the time, the lease presented just didn’t sound like it was actually doable.”
Council colleague Tim Watts said he does have doubts, but said the chamber is more active now than it was in 2019.
“I can see both sides of the argument and I agree with Councilor Pollack, but this is a different chamber than before,” Watts said. “Before I was on council, I didn’t see a ton of activity from our chamber and now we have more businesses coming in, which gives the chamber more to do.”
The chamber’s Cummings said they have big plans for the site. They’re eager to have more parking and look forward to hosting a visitors bureau there.
“The building itself will be a gathering space,” Cumming said. “The caboose would be a semi-private office and one end would be our conference room. And inside, we want to promote what Brighton has to offer at a visitor’s center.”
In addition to the Taste of Brighton, Cummings said she’d love to make the occasional visits by the Big Boy train – the massive 1941 steam locomotive that drove up the through Brighton – and right past the depot – in September more of an event.
“We missed a huge opportunity this year,” she said. “I went out and watched it and everybody was there and chatting. We should have had a pancake breakfast. We should have sold train whistles and T-shirts with the year on them. There was a ton of opportunity we missed that would have had people coming back.”