Aspen Wheeler’s $2M exterior project to begin after Labor Day

The city of Aspen is about to embark on a $2 million masonry restoration project on the Wheeler Opera House, which will close the bar and restaurant in the government-owned building until mid-December.

Aspen City Council on Tuesday approved a $1.6 million contract with Aspen Constructors to be the general contractor on the project, which has been ramped up while the building is closed due to COVID-19 public health orders.

The remaining amount includes almost $200,000 in soft costs and $300,000 in contingency.

The project is being paid for out of the Wheeler fund, which includes revenue from a portion of the real estate transfer tax.

The project was originally going to begin in the fall of 2021 and be complete in the spring of 2022.

Now the hope is to be done by spring of 2021, said Rob Schober, project manager in the city’s asset management department.

“We are going to knock out as much as possible on the Mill Street side,” he said on Wednesday, adding that masonry work is difficult in the winter months because of cold temperatures. “We’ll see where we are at (in December). An old building like that, you never know what you’ll find.”

The work this fall will focus on the areas of the building where Aspen Public House and Valley Fine Art are located, with the intent of them opening fully in mid-December.

Aspen City Council in July agreed to waive the rent for both Aspen Public House and Valley Fine Art through December, equaling a loss of almost $88,000 that would normally fund local nonprofits through the annual Wheeler grants program.

Aspen Public House’s monthly rent is approximately $10,635.

Valley Fine Art’s monthly rent is almost $4,000.

Because the entire building will be covered in scaffolding as tall as 60 feet high so workers can grout in between the sandstone and replace some of the bricks, project managers recommend that both businesses close to expedite the project.

Mia Valley, owner of Valley Fine Art, will stay open in September and be open by appointment only during October and the beginning of November.

Public House will close Sept. 8 with a planned reopening shortly before Christmas.

The masonry subcontractor, Summit Sealants, has done historic restoration throughout the intermountain west on iconic structures like cathedrals, mausoleums and train depots, according to Schober.

“They are a preferred contractor for the Colorado Historical Society,” he said.

Schober said he doesn’t expect the Wheeler project to be too impactful to the area, other than the two businesses in the building.

“It’s precision work,” he said. “A lot is going to be done by hand.”

In addition to the building being wrapped in scaffolding, there will be sheeting, debris netting or printed banner wraps to help manage the dust and reduce the visual impact of the project, according to Schober.

Summit Sealants will need to custom fit stones on site, and it is expected to be loud at times because there will be heavy machinery.

Jersey barriers will be placed around the entire building, on Hyman Avenue and Mill Street, impacting traffic and pedestrian flows.


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