Aspen Music Fest CEO house to get $250K renovation
November 9, 2011
ASPEN – The Aspen Music Festival and School will spend up to $250,000 renovating the Mountain Valley residence that serves as the home of CEO Alan Fletcher, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit group confirmed Tuesday.
Demolition work already has begun inside the building, but a construction permit has yet to be obtained, said AMFS marketing and public relations director Laura Smith. Meanwhile, the school is renting a temporary home in Snowmass Village for Fletcher. The project could be finished by the end of this year.
“The main goal is to make the space better suited for entertaining, which is a large part of the job of any CEO of an arts organization,” Smith said. “There is currently no real dining room and just a very small area for mingling and interacting. So that’s the main thrust of the project.”
In January, an AMFS board committee discussed selling the house at 100 Mountain Laurel Court and purchasing another house for Fletcher that would be more suitable for entertaining patrons of the school, artists and other VIPs. By early February, that tentative plan was nixed amid outcry from some longtime supporters, though the school pointed to local real estate market considerations as the reason it wasn’t going forward with the idea.
In emails and letters to local media, critics questioned the logic of selling and buying real estate after a period of nearly a dozen faculty layoffs; a 200-plus decrease in the number of summer students; a reduction in the length of the summer program; and the cancellation of last winter’s program. They also said that Fletcher was already living in a house of his own choosing and there was no need for an upgrade.
In late September, the school’s investment committee blessed the plan to renovate what’s known as the “CEO House.” Smith said a woman on the board has spearheaded the project to make the house more livable and accommodating to guests. She declined to identify the individual, saying the woman was out of town and had not given permission to release her name.
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“This has been talked about by board members for a long time,” Smith said. “One particular longtime board member chose to take this on several months ago and pretty much single-handedly has done the work and managed the job.
“She obviously worked with the committees and the board. But she’s the one who said, ‘This really needs to happen, and so let’s do it,'” Smith said.
Money for the project will come from the school’s $50 million-plus endowment fund. In August, the school reaped $2.25 million more for the fund by selling a house it owned off of Riverside Drive. The sale of the property – willed to AMFS more than 20 years ago after the death of its owner, Fred Lane – became possible when a woman who was allowed to live there decided that she no longer needed the house.
Smith said Fletcher did not push for plans to either sell or renovate the Mountain Valley house. Fletcher was out of town earlier this week and unavailable for comment.
“The house is manageable for our needs, and we have made it work,” she said. “I can’t say that this was a top priority for him. We have a campus we’re building; we had a music director to appoint.”
Smith said that in addition to being more suitable for entertainment purposes, the renovated house also can be used for media projects and various types of interviews. She also the project helps upgrade the school’s asset portfolio.
“From time to time, real estate needs some attention,” she said, describing the cost of the renovation as an investment. “This would be the same as buying a stock. It doesn’t affect the endowment; it’s just a change from one type of asset to another.”
Smith said most if not all board members are aware of the project. She said she hasn’t heard any negative comments about the initiative.
In other comments, Smith said the 2011 summer season was a success and the winter season soon will return after a one-year hiatus.
“We made our budget [on the summer season],” she said. “We had no deficit, we had no surplus, which is exactly where you want to be for a nonprofit.”
The festival’s new school campus is under construction in the same location as the current campus off Castle Creek Road. Along with the recent hiring of Robert Spano, the new music director, Smith called it “an exciting time” for the festival and school.
The school brings in 630 students every summer, a significant reduction from 850 students a decade ago. Smith said the faculty downsizing was part of an overall strategic plan to fit the decreased student population.
Fletcher’s tenure as AMFS president and chief executive began in early 2006 and hasn’t always been smooth. In October 2009, the executive committee abruptly fired him, only to reinstate him a few weeks later by the full board.
At the time, Fletcher acknowledged divisions within the organization, particularly between himself and then-Music Director David Zinman over the issue of faculty layoffs. Zinman asked to be released from his contract in April 2010 after 12 years on the job, and the board granted his request.