Aspen hires an owner’s rep for Wheeler Opera House plan | AspenTimes.com

Aspen hires an owner’s rep for Wheeler Opera House plan

Carolyn SackariasonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council agreed this week to spend $100,000 to hire a Phoenix firm to act as an owner’s representative in the proposed expansion of the Wheeler Opera House.The city will enter into a contract with Pfocus LLC to be a “program manager.” The company will assist in hiring a contractor and manage the design team overseeing the $30 million project.The hiring of an owner’s representative is in response to recommendations made from an outside auditing firm hired last year in the aftermath of the financial controversies surrounding the city’s role as the developer in the Burlingame Ranch affordable housing project.The auditing firm, as well as a construction experts group and a citizen budget task force, recommended that the city hire a program manager as part of what’s called an “integrated project delivery” method for large capital projects undertaken by the local government.”They will be the interface between us [Wheeler staff] and the architects and the contractor,” said Wheeler Opera House Executive Director Gram Slaton. “They’ll be keeping everyone honest.”Other team members currently on the Wheeler project include the city of Aspen, which owns the Wheeler, as well as New Jersey-based architects Farewell Mills Gatch LLC, local architectural firm Rowland & Broughton, and Aspen-based Bluegreen, a landscape design firm.Pfocus also will help vet a contractor for the project through a request-for-proposals process. The firm will review bids to find a suitable builder for the proposed 32,000-square-foot addition. That builder or contractor will be held responsible for not exceeding the maximum construction price established by the team.”Projects delivered in this manner typically produce higher-quality results, within identified budgets, and without surprises,” wrote Steve Bossart, the city’s capital asset project manager, in a memo to the council.Slaton said Pfocus was used to help select the architectural and design team, and proved to be a good third party. He added that having an outside firm managing the project makes good business sense.”Having an owner’s rep is absolutely invaluable,” Slaton said. “They say you save $10 for every $1.”The original request for the Pfocus contract was $302,751, but the council cut that amount by two-thirds because the project is still in its infancy in terms of design and city approval.Pfocus’ scope of work will include not only recruiting the appropriate contractors and consultants, but also managing the team to ensure that the project stays within budget and on schedule.Pfocus was selected because of its experience related to performing arts facilities, historical renovation and urban construction technologies.The contract is intended to assist the city and Wheeler staff through the pre-construction portion of the project.So far this year, the city has earmarked more than $500,000 for the proposed addition to the Wheeler, which, if approved by voters, would be located on an empty lot next to the existing building.In January, the council approved a $400,000 contract to hire the architectural and design team. The contract amount for the team was $276,350; the remaining money will be used for additional planning and consultants. As of August, $342,000 had been spent on the expansion plans. The original 2009 budget was for $660,000.Other local firms and national consultants will have a hand in designing the master plan for an eventual expansion of the Wheeler, but until conceptual approval is granted by the council, there is no need for them yet, Slaton said.”There is a whole complement of professionals sitting on the sidelines waiting for the work,” Slaton said, adding the team will be rounded out with theater and acoustic consultants, engineers and other experts. The council is considering a $3 million line item in the city’s capital improvement budget for 2010 that would pay for the next phase of the Wheeler’s 21st Century Master Plan if and when conceptual approval is granted. The appropriation would pay for work up to the final plans and blueprints, with anticipated construction to begin in the spring of 2011.csack@aspentimes.com