Aspen council to discuss Wheeler Opera House renovations

Staff report
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – After a 12-day break in which no public meetings were held, the Aspen City Council returns to action Monday at 5 p.m. for a work session to discuss plans for a nearly $3 million upgrade to the Wheeler Opera House.

In December, the council unanimously approved a design and engineering contract, not to exceed $318,835, to Mills and Schnoering Architects LLC, of Princeton, N.J., a firm that specializes in historical-preservation projects. The company will guide the rehabilitation of the Wheeler Opera House balcony, for which $2.9 million has been included in the city’s 2013 budget.

The city has identified numerous problems with the balcony area, including audience discomfort (seats that are too small), antiquated projection technology and safety issues. Though some council members have expressed concerns that a renovation might affect the building’s historical character, Wheeler executive director Gram Slaton has said that protection of its character was a primary reason why Mills and Schnoering, with its expertise in the preservation arena, was chosen by the contract-selection team.

Mills and Schnoering have developed four different design options, one of which is preferred by the Wheeler’s board and staff. Details surrounding those options will be discussed at tonight’s meeting.

A memorandum from Slaton to council members states that the construction project would begin Sept. 3 and end no later than Dec. 18, “in order to proceed with a full slate of winter programming at the Wheeler.”

Should the council decide not to move forward with full remodel plans, the Wheeler could purchase and install a much-needed upgrade in projection equipment for $150,000, according to the memo.

“The balcony design and seating could continue as it is, at no cost,” Slaton wrote.

The meeting will be held in the basement of City Hall at 130 S. Galena St.