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Expansion of Wheeler in Aspen gets focus

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The Wheeler Opera House in Aspen will host two open houses Monday to showcase its 21st Century Master Plan, which includes a remodel and expansion.

The first open house will be held between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., and the second will be held between 5:30 and 7 p.m.

The open houses will start in the Wheeler’s second-floor lobby, where the public is invited to meet members of the Wheeler’s creative design team. All three principal partners of New Jersey-based Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects LLC (FMG) are expected to be present, as well as Sarah Broughton and John Rowland from Aspen-based Rowland + Broughton Architects (R+B).



The open houses will include backstage tours of the Wheeler, as well as a presentation by the FMG and R+B creative team on their approach to architecture and the vision that they hope to bring to Aspen and the Wheeler.

The team led by Farewell Mills Gatsch is presently at work on the predesign and planning stage for the possible expansion of the historic venue.




The Wheeler Opera House was opened in 1889 to great fanfare but suffered a sharp decline along with the rest of Aspen after the collapse of silver prices in the 1890s. Two fires in 1912 devastated the theater, and the city of Aspen purchased the remaining structure in 1918 for $1,188.

Rediscovered after World War II, the theater went through several partial renovations before a comprehensive plan was put together in the early 1980s that included funding its restoration and renovation through a Real Estate Transfer Tax. As part of this renovation, the parcel next to the building was purchased in 1982 for $550,000 for the purposes of an expansion facility, but problems with design and insufficient finances sidelined that portion of the project and the Wheeler reopened in 1984.

In 2004, the Aspen City Council established a master plan to re-examine the historic Wheeler and the need for an expansion. This past January, the City Council approved moving forward with a predesign and planning phase for expansion.

For more information, call Wheeler Opera House Executive Director Gram Slaton at 920-5790, or e-mail gram.slaton@ci.aspen.co.us.


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