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Aspen takes dim view of new neon sign at Intrawest center

Janet Urquhart

The large neon sign visible through the window of Intrawest’s new “discovery center” in Aspen is getting attention, but maybe not the kind the company had in mind.

The city’s zoning officer has instructed the company to unplug the sign, which violates Aspen’s sign code.

The sign reads “bull’s eye” and features the lighted shape of a steer’s head. Internally lit signs that can be seen from the public right of way violate the code, and the one in Intrawest’s new quarters, located in the former Aspen Drug space, has generated complaints, according to city officials.

“I’ve had like six different people stop me and complain about that one,” said David Hoefer, assistant city attorney.

“I think I had my first complaint before they even took the paper off,” said Sarah Oates, the city’s zoning officer. The brown paper came off the windows with the new center’s unveiling last week.

Mayor Helen Klanderud said she hasn’t received any citizen complaints about the noticeable new neon, but she has one of her own: “It’s very visible and unless we’re going to change the sign code, it’s in violation.”

Oates said she sent a letter to Intrawest in Snowmass Village on Tuesday, directing the company to turn the sign off.

“I would like to see it shut off by [today],” she said yesterday. “If they don’t, I’ll go in and see them face to face.”

The discovery center ‘s sign isn’t the only one that has come to Oates’ attention lately.

A neon beer sign inside the concession area at the Isis Theatre has also been the subject of complaints, she said. The Isis, too, has received a letter.

Although no one has complained about it, Oates said she has also let Curious George know that the neon sign on display in its window is a no-no. That sign is actually a piece of merchandise in the collectibles shop on the Hyman Avenue Mall. It apparently once hung at a motel called the Silver Spur, which is lit up in neon along with the word “Vacancy.”

Oates said she sends periodic letters to Jean Robert Gym over its sign.

The only internally lit sign that is permitted in the city is the historic Isis sign, which lights up the name of the theater in red bulbs.

The old neon sign for the former Golden Horn restaurant is also historic and could be reactivated, Oates said, but it hasn’t been lit in years.

The discovery center is operated by Playground, a subsidiary of Intrawest that specializes in marketing resort real estate. The Aspen discovery center is currently selling interests in a 21-unit project in Snowmass Village called Sanctuary, as well as the Snowmass Private Residence Club. It will soon begin marketing the proposed new ski-in, ski-out base-area development in Snowmass, to be developed by Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co.

Jib Street, director of sales and marketing for Playground, said Thursday he had not yet seen Oates’ letter.

The neon sign is an integral part of the discovery center concept, he said.

The renovations to create the center, at the corner of Galena Street and Hyman Avenue, cost nearly $1 million, according to Street. Curious visitors are treated to an interior designed to evoke the feel of the Snowmass real estate developments, including Western flourishes reminiscent of the ranching history in the valley where Snowmass Village now exists.

In a small, plush theater, visitors can watch a short DVD production featuring what Intrawest calls its “Storied Places,” of which Sanctuary is one, as well as plans for the new base development in Snowmass Village.


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