A new music and artisan event, Gem City Nights, is slated to make its annual debut on the first Thursday of July.
But after much talk concerning the proposed location between the Laramie Plains Civic Center and Albany County Public Library, with the city of Laramie included, a change in venue was adopted.
All Gem City Nights amplified musical performances, which were initially organized as outdoor concerts staged on Garfield Street between Seventh and Eighth streets, will now be indoors at the Gryphon Theater, Kimberly Mittelstadt, executive director of the Civic Center, said Tuesday. The decision follows multiple complaints from area residents addressed to all three entities.
“We want to be very mindful of our neighbors because … it’s not the easiest thing to live next to the Civic Center at times,” Mittelstadt said.
She added 60 different tenants are located within the building — more than half being nonprofit organizations — and regularly utilize conference rooms and recreational facilities every day.
“We want to be respectful to our neighbors’ request … especially those who live directly adjacent to (us),” Kimberly said.
Caitlin White, executive director of the Albany County Public Library Foundation, agreed with Mittlestadt, stating the library wants to be a good neighbor, but also wanted to address some of the confusion circulating through the community about the performances.
“(I) keep hearing that (people think) this is going to be a heavy-rock concert and its going to be really loud,” White said, “and I’ll tell you that some of the groups that are on our lists are actually acoustic, one-man bands (or) bluegrass.”
White had said that despite the small stage and amplified music, she and the Civic Center understood that “being blasted away by music” isn’t fun for anybody, and they had planned the concerts to be toned down.
Regardless, more than 20% of adjacent and/or impacted residents wrote letters or contacted the appropriate authorities to protest the street closures, including Laurie Richmond, who lives on the southeast corner of Garfield and Eighth streets.
Richmond told the Boomerang that her house has undergone several incidents of property destruction during other past events, including broken windows, break-ins and empty beer bottles left carelessly in her yard.
When she received a flier and detailed map of the proposed location and setup for the music and artisan festival, Richmond was shocked.
“I am not anti-community fun and games … It’s just not appropriate,” Richmond said, because it’s a residential neighborhood.
Richmond said she spoke with several of her surrounding neighbors, who also allegedly did not approve of the street event and started a petition explicitly stating the residents in the immediate area did not sanction it. A copy of the petition — designed to demonstrate a shared concern, not to start a movement, Richmond emphasized — was provided to the Boomerang and revealed several signatures of residents at the Islamic Center, 10th Street and Grand Avenue. In total, eight signatures are accounted for.
The residents who complained shared the same concerns about parking and noise, said Janine Jordan, Laramie city manager. Many made it known that they liked the idea of Gem City Nights, but thought the bandshell in Washington Park or other similar public venues were more suitable.
“It’s not atypical for communities to have these kinds of street closures for concerts or music,” Jordan said, adding, “When you’re in or near to a residential neighborhood and it has an ongoing (event) over many nights, it can be difficult for neighbors who don’t want to be in a live concert.”
The “dynamic tension” between using public spaces for community building events is a sensitive one because the event can’t disenfranchise the residents who live in the immediate area, Jordan said, and for this reason, she and City Clerk Nancy Bartholomew have been in regular conversation with the Civic Center staff (the primary permit applicants) about the special event permit process and the complaints among the residents.
Bartholomew said during her conversations with the Civic Center and library staff, she reminded them they could modify the terms of the event to address and accommodate the concerns of the residents.
Typically, modifications usually take the form of a change in time, location or date. In the case of Gem City Nights, Mitteltstadt said they ultimately decided to change the venue from outdoors to indoors.
“We just hope it’ll be a fun summer activity, because we all kind of need it,” she said.
With Gem City Nights events now indoors, and on private property, Jordan said it is no longer considered a “special event” because it won’t require street closure. The Civic Center, however, has requested a noise permit in the event that the concert is still audible from outside.
In addition, all other activities, including artisan vendors and food vendors, are arranged to take place in the library parking lot.