Money would go toward second phase of ambitious project.

COTUIT — Out of space and at “a crossroads,” Cotuit Center for the Arts has launched a $1 million capital campaign to redesign its campus in preparation for a large expansion that could add classrooms, performance spaces and places to gather.

This latest fundraising, aimed to finish by the end of the year or early 2019, would largely cover design, engineering and permit work for the second phase of an expected project of five or more phases. Phase 1 raised $600,000 to pay for last year’s purchase at auction of 1½ acres of adjacent Route 28 land — an opportunity that board president Kathie Lynch Nutting called “a game-changer” — and for the demolition of the bakery, bait shop and gas pumps and removal of underground gas tanks there.

Twelve volunteers spent three hours last weekend painting that site's former gas station, which is expected to be converted next spring into a ceramics studio as part of Phase 2. Land behind it was cleared this past summer for additional parking, and executive director David Kuehn hopes paving for parking areas could be part of the latest $1 million phase, about $250,000 of which already has been raised.

In announcing the capital campaign, Kuehn said much of what the center has now “is woefully inadequate, poses significant logistical challenges and is simply unsustainable” for the center’s “jam-packed” schedule.

A typical year, he said, has grown to include close to 20 theater productions, 40 classes, 12 art gallery shows and dozens of special events and other activities that include film screenings, festivals and magic shows. Officials now have to turn away performers and classes because there is not room in the schedule or existing buildings, he said.

At a public meeting on the plans Thursday, Kuehn described a typical day last week when various groups were competing for limited meeting areas. “We are out of space in every aspect for everything we do,” he said.

David Croteau, president of Flansburgh architectural firm in Boston, used movable models to demonstrate to about 30 people gathered how the center’s 7½-acre campus could potentially be reconfigured into a larger arts complex. Ideas included building classrooms behind the planned ceramics studio; moving the property’s current “schoolhouse” to add backstage space to the existing 175-seat theater; building a new 400-seat theater that could eventually be connected via a large lobby area that would include a cafe, teaching kitchen and offices; and an outdoor space and beer garden.

A woodlands buffer of more than 2 acres — potentially with walking paths — could fill much of the property’s west side, and access to the arts buildings could be reconfigured farther west on Route 28 as well, Croteau showed. A strip of green space also could be added along Route 28 to beautify the area next to the busy highway.

He and Kuehn emphasized, though, that there are no definite plans or cost estimates yet, and the next step would be to meet with town and Cape Cod Commission officials to get their input on what might be possible.

“We’re working on our dream right now,” Kuehn said before the meeting. “We don’t know how much of our dream can become a reality.”

An important part of the plan, he added, is space outdoors and inside where people can simply visit and gather “to be part of the community we’ve worked hard over the last seven or eight years to develop.” Croteau noted during the meeting that clustering the proposed buildings would add to the sense of community with the “idea of everyone bumping into each other” as different arts activities happened.

The ideas are expected to be divided into three to five construction phases over years, and Kuehn and Croteau said each phase would stand on its own so certain parts would still be completed if later fundraising goals could not be met.

“If you stop at any phase, you’re still better off than you were,” Croteau said.

Decisions cannot be made until costs are known, Kuehn said before the meeting, so timing is still uncertain as well. “We won’t start construction (on each phase) until we raise the money” for that part of the project, he said.

— Follow Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.