Make Aspen proud
July 3, 2009
Let there be no doubt – the Wheeler is the “people’s place.” Contrary to my usual stand, I wholeheartedly support the Wheeler expansion and recommend we give the Wheeler the support they request and deserve – which includes sufficient height to accommodate a much needed apartment on the roof for visiting Wheeler performers. An exception for height at this location is a public benefit that warrants a variance in height because Aspen cannot afford to provide visiting performers with Aspen’s pricey luxury suites, especially during high season. Aspen will lose top performers unless sufficient housing is provided on site. Furthermore, at this location, height does not obstruct the view plane of people walking down the street.
The music school has exclusive use of the 450-seat theater in the Wheeler during the summer, so no other summer performances are possible on site. A second theater will allow the Wheeler to create its own programs in the summer and double its offerings in the winter. A large indoor lobby makes more sense than an outdoor space which could only be used a small percentage of the year.
The Wheeler lead architect firm specializes in designing additions to historic theaters, so let’s let them do their job and let’s support a plan that’s 25 years in the making. The Wheeler endowment currently has $20 million; however, another $5-$10 million could be needed, which is why it makes sense to proceed now before construction prices increase again.
The Aspen Institute, the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, Aspen Film, the Aspen Music Festival, and Theatre Aspen have met with the Wheeler Board for four years to discuss the best use of space for this expansion, so let’s trust our local performing arts community.
Construction prices are lower now so several million dollars could be saved by not delaying this project until construction prices go back up. Let’s not sabotage ourselves wasting time preventing an expansion that provides necessary performance space to make Aspen proud.
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This is not the moment to be tight-fisted and short-sighted. Allow the Wheeler to expand as they have planned for 25 years because that expansion can and will benefit all of us. The Wheeler is the “people’s place” so support its expansion and make Aspen proud. Thank you.