There’s just no better place to sip on Kona coffee, enjoy a rich, chocolate brownie (gluten-free and made with aloha spirit), catch a great indie movie, or peruse shelves filled with 36,073 library books (audio and print) and DVDs than Breckenridge’s new community center, officially titled The Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center.
No, you won’t be offered a timeshare when you walk into the historical 1909 building. But you’ll be able to watch the latest independent film the Speakeasy Movie Theatre has to offer, hang out in a coffee shop opened by an award-winning baker from the Big Island, and check out books, DVDs and audios that hold worlds of possibilities. How’s that for a grand vacation?
From schoolhouse to community house
The new community center, which debuted Jan. 10, is home to Summit County’s south-branch library, The Speakeasy Movie Theatre, a coffee shop called the Yellow Arrow, a multipurpose room for rentals, and offices for local nonprofits.
The building, built in 1909, underwent Summit County’s largest and most unique renovation — ever. Windows were restored, the original brick chimney remained exposed on the first floor, original, wooden staircases were repaired, and strips of the old gym floor were kept intact in small areas of the library.
The name, Breckenridge Grand Vacations, came from the same-named timeshare vacation company, which donated $500,000 for the renovation. Another $2 million came from individual and corporate donations.
In 1909, the building, located at 103 S. Harris St., was a wooden schoolhouse, and by 1921, the town had grown so much, the school needed an addition. It remained Summit County’s only high school from 1909 to 1961. It also served as a fire and police department before Colorado Mountain College moved in, in 1975.
Breckenridge movie house
The Speakeasy Movie Theatre moved into the basement in 1998 and has been there since, except for a 20-month hiatus during the building’s renovation.
In 2008, Karin Litzmann bought the theater when then-owner Guy Natanel moved overseas to attend film school.
Having started out in film in New York herself, Litzmann loved the Speakeasy’s mission to present quality, independent feature films, documentaries, foreign films and occasional family features in Breckenridge and has continued the legacy. She understands that a film can “enlighten and teach … and stay with you forever,” she says.
The 130-seat, state-of-the-art, digital picture and sound theater is open every day and offers weekend matinees. Regular ticket cost is $10 for adults and $7 for kids, seniors, military and matinees. (970) 453-9021
Library: a house of books
A library next to a movie theater? Yes, the renovation presented some challenges, including creating a sound-proof room in the theater, but contractors pulled it off.
Now, Breckenridge’s library has 25 percent more space than its previous, 3,400-square-foot location, on Airport Road (oddly enough, the library was originally located in the same building it is now — the 1909 schoolhouse, but it only took up 950 square feet then).
In addition to six new display monitors, 20 new iPads and Chromebooks, 15 new public computers, and study tables, the library provides three separate rooms for kids, including a dedicated space for teens and bean bags and a tiny plastic playground for younger kids. It also offers meeting rooms and a reading deck, for sunny days.
The story of how the Yellow Arrow Coffee shop came about is almost as interesting as the gluten-free goodies found inside. Here’s a teaser: You can learn the rest from owner Gwen Edwards.
The name Yellow Arrow Coffee originates from Edwards’ experience walking the Camino last summer. She found herself alone, looking at a yellow arrow and a cement way marker telling her how many steps remained to reach Santiago. She was at a crossroads in her life, and the arrow signified the clearly marked trail; yet, she had a choice to “go off the rails on our own,” she said in her blog. I’ll leave it to you to learn more.
Rest of the community center
A multipurpose room, on the lower level of the building, offers space for any community member to reserve, for every occasion, from a meeting to birthdays and small wedding receptions. It accommodates about 100 people (or about 50, seated around tables). A divider wall allows the space to be cut in half, while each room remains equipped with a flat-screen TV and Blu-ray player. A kitchen sits across the hall.
Three community organizations also call the center home; The Summit Foundation, a nonprofit awards grants to multiple nonprofits in Summit County; the Breckenridge Festival of Film, which organizes an annual film fest featuring independent films; and the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, which will now offer a public display for archives collected from community members.
The Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center is a mini vacation in and of itself — one that needs to be experienced in person, be it through books, movies or coffee. So head over to 103 S. Harris as soon — and as many times — as possible.