City will use Isis for forum on theater building’s future |

City will use Isis for forum on theater building’s future

Janet Urquhart

Aspen has found at least one use for the vacant Isis Theatre. It will be the venue for a Jan. 16 community forum on how to save the Isis, city officials confirmed yesterday.

The Aspen City Council plans to host what has been dubbed a “town meeting” to brainstorm on ways to preserve the theater, which has sat silent since Resort Theaters of America ceased operation of the movie house last month.

In the meantime, Leslie Lamont, who steps down from her post as a Pitkin County commissioner with today’s swearing in of her successor, has been hired to survey community groups that could have some use for the theater. She will also be the moderator for next Tuesday’s meeting, said Randy Ready, assistant city manager.

“We really want to create a forum for the community about the Isis – what the Isis means to them,” said Mayor Rachel Richards.

She expects discussion to range from taking a hands-off approach and letting the building’s owners step forward with a proposal for the Isis to local groups pushing forward with a capital campaign to buy the cinema, and everything in between.

“What groups really have an interest in using the building, and what can they put on the table?” Richards mused.

The meeting is scheduled to run from 5 to 8 p.m. The agenda calls for public comment, a background presentation, potential uses for the Isis and financial scenarios and small-group discussions on future uses of the theater.

The first step, Richards told council members at their informal noon meeting Monday, may be coming up with an interim use of the building while long-range discussions continue.

“If we’re able to fund a short-term operating plan and get the lights back on in the building, I think we need to do that,” Richards said. “I do not foresee a government subsidy for a short-term operating plan.”

City officials contemplated, and then decided against, obtaining an appraisal of the property, according to Richards. “We decided that was not the most valuable use of our money right now,” she said.

An appraisal is probably premature unless a capital campaign to buy the building is organized, said Richards. The Isis owners have not, she added, “put a price on the table.”

Shortly after the theater closed, Sam Houston, spokesman for the building’s owners, indicated a search was under way to find a new operator for the theater.

Representatives of Isis LCC, the group that owns the building, are expected to participate in next week’s forum.

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