A proper leap of faith
It seems to me that any forward-looking view of the Wheeler purchase of the Mother Lode requires a leap of faith. This leap of faith is justified for reasons that are woven into the fabric of where the town wants to be sometime in the future, and where and how it wants to generate a viable and thriving economy.
A healthy downtown environment generating sales taxes to support the town can only be generated if people with disposable incomes want to be in Aspen and are drawn here by the activities and lifestyles that suit their interests.
That means that the full range of cultural, artistic, intellectual and entertainment activities continue to offer an expanded menu that will differentiate Aspen from other mountain towns.
The purchase of the Mother Lode will give the town a great option for the future expansion of an in-town venue for all sorts of activities – and, at a very low cost. This great location in the center of town cannot be duplicated. It can serve the interests of the town for many generations to come. Once this property is lost, the cost of establishing expanded event venues will be prohibitive.
In large part, Aspen has been very lucky. Private funds have built Harris Hall, the new Music Tent, the Aspen Art Museum, Anderson Ranch, the Aspen Institute, and private funds have brought music, dance, art and theater to this town. No other place of significance has had so little public money invested in its own future.
The purchase of the Mother Lode will require no new town money or new taxes. It will be, in large part, self-financing. (The carrying cost of the property will be approximately $125,000 a year in interest payments. The current lease rate of the restaurant is $120,000 per year.)
Once the property is secured, the city and the Wheeler can have time to plan an expanded use of the adjoining lot and the Mother Lode, all in the best interests of the town of Aspen.
The other alternative is to let the Mother Lode property turn into expensive condos and forever lose the chance to build a significant venue that adds significantly to the health of the city. With the opportunity comes the responsibility of the Wheeler and the town to convert the option into a realistic and progressive project that benefits the city of Aspen.
This leap of faith is closely intertwined with the faith that one has in the future of our town.
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