Don’t destroy the Wheeler’s character
September 23, 2009
The following letter was originally sent to the Aspen City Council.
I am writing to express my opposition to the expansion of the Wheeler Opera House as proposed. I am concerned on many levels that this very unique and very special part of our community fabric will be compromised by the conceptual design you will be reviewing at your upcoming Sept. 29 (originally scheduled for Sept. 28) meeting.
It is certainly not curious to me that long-time local residents did not voice their support of the expansion in the recent city sponsored survey. I believe that they recognize the impacts the proposed expansion will have on the special qualities that the Wheeler brings to our community. By its very nature, it provides an intimate theater and performance venue, which by its very nature, makes it a wonderful experience for performer and audience alike.
I believe you must examine carefully the impacts of the expansion on the financial future of the Wheeler Opera House. Voters were well aware of their intent when they passed the Real Estate Transfer Tax to fund the Wheeler. It is ultimately the City Council’s responsibility to honor the voters’ trust and to insure that the funding for the Wheeler Opera House is sufficient to protect, operate and maintain this very special building. A depletion of the entire endowment for the proposed expansion is too big a risk to take in any economic climate.
Significant square footage is being proposed for office space, much of which need not be located in prime locations within the addition. I object strongly to the scale and massing of the addition, which matches the Wheeler in width and nearly in height. I object to any future proposals to expand the stage over the alley which would significantly compromise the north façade of the building. Plans to expand the balcony seating are also ill advised and will compromise the historic nature of the interior theater space. The Wheeler needs to be honored for what it is; not remade into a performing arts center. If the community has a need for a performing arts center, we need to build one somewhere else.
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The Wheeler Opera House is arguably one of the most historic and significant buildings in all of Aspen. I implore you to consider the impacts on this, our most treasured historic building, and to really consider whether this expansion is truly in the best interest of the Wheeler Opera House. Those of us who are opposed to the expansion are not opposed to the Wheeler or the arts. We simply recognize what a very special place the Wheeler is and we are deeply concerned about what could be destroyed.