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Huge risks with Mother Lode

In light of your recent editorial asking Aspen voters to vote for the Mother Lode purchase I must respectfully disagree, urging the voters to vote “NO.”

I have been and will continue to be a strong supporter of the arts, whether it be theatre, music, live performances or other fine arts, but I cannot in my wildest dreams justify this purchase without a rational plan in place. Here are three thoughts:

1. If you read the city appraisal on this property, as I have, you’ll see that the current income justifies a purchase price near $2 million, not the $3.25 million the city is contemplating. Even in the best case scenario, given the appraiser’s stretch that the property could be rented for more, it is not worth more than $2.9 million.

Why spend your money, and even the cost of the appraisal, when you’re not even getting a “deal”? I can’t wait to see what additional costs will come the city’s way when we go to renovate, expand and bring the historic building up to code!

2. Why do we have to buy the Mother Lode, just because The Mother Lode is next to two city lots THAT WE ALREADY OWN, that is next to the Wheeler? If you want to expand the Wheeler, why not just build a very compatible, tasteful and multi-purpose building on the vacant 6,000 feet THAT WE ALREADY OWN. We’ve got the money!

The arts groups should be encouraged to garner support from local planners, architects and contractors to present just such a building to City Council. You’d end up with a fabulous facility for the same price as the tattered Mother Lode property. The Mother Lode is a historical building, and it will be a black hole for the city to spend umpteen more millions making it functional.

3. The Aspen Times editorial dated Oct. 24 suggests that “if it becomes clear the property is better suited for a restaurant or some other sort of commercial enterprise, then the city should put it back on the market,” which strikes me of fiscal mismanagement at its worst!

What ballerina would buy an extra pair of ballet slippers, just because she had extra money, then to find out that they were the wrong size to begin with, and had to re-sell them to her (smarter) friends?

What truck driver would buy a used truck, at a price well over the “blue book” value, realize after the fact that he didn’t really need the truck in the first place, then end up dumping the truck just to get rid of it. He’d probably take a huge loss in the transaction, and so will the city if it buys the Mother Lode.

I’m sure the city is paying a hefty real estate commission in this deal, and when it sells it there will be another commission paid. Where is the logic in buying something for which you have no plan, especially when transactional costs and risks are huge. Have you noticed a few (!) empty commercial spaces in town this spring, summer and fall? The risk of re-selling is indeed large.

4. Our town has done quite well culturally, with facilities spread out over a large network of public and privately funded facilities. Lets keep our powder dry for a real opportunity in the future. Vote NO on the Mother Lode.

Craig C. Ward

Aspen


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