Jazz performance space planned for downtown Aspen
As the Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June Experience kicks off today with multiple artists performing at numerous venues around the downtown core through the weekend, the nonprofit is quietly planning for its permanent home above the historic Red Onion.
Jim Horowitz, president and CEO of JAS, said he has been working with landlord and developer Mark Hunt on preliminary plans to transform the interior spaces of 416, 420 and 422 E. Cooper Ave., which are in the heart of the pedestrian mall.
JAS announced last August that it is under contract to purchase the second floor of the Red Onion building and adjacent upstairs spaces for $15 million for a new performance center.
As part of the contract, Hunt will build out the spaces to suit JAS’s needs. The deal closes when the space is complete.
Hunt said Tuesday that building plans have been submitted to the city and are under review.
“I hope we will be in a position to start construction in April,” he sad.
Plans include a pedestrian mall front entrance that will be a two-story gallery of artist photos from JAS’s 28-year collection. A new terrace will be built off the second floor.
That building’s second floor will connect to the top level of the original Red Onion, where there will be a bar with direct sight lines to an elevated stage.
That performance area, located above what is now an empty storefront next to the Red Onion, will feature a terrace overlooking the mall that offers a stage view for people sitting outside during the summer.
Hunt said the JAS Center is one of the more exciting projects he’s got going in the downtown core.
“I think it’s the coolest thing ever,” Hunt said, adding that he hopes the renovated space pays homage to the history of musicians who performed at the Red Onion in the 1950s like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
“Imagine how charming it will be to have that outdoor space where people can sit down on the mall and poach a free concert.”
Establishing a permanent home for JAS in Aspen’s core has been central in the nonprofit’s strategic plan.
Horowitz said this weekend’s lineup of musicians playing at seven different venues is a perfect example of why the JAS Center is needed.
“It completely ties into why we need a permanent home,” he said. “Everything you hear this weekend … all of that could exist under one roof.”
Horowitz said information on the JAS Center plans will be displayed in the Durant Street Donor Tent as part of its quiet fundraising campaign.
“We’re updating people this weekend,” he said.
Once plans are more set and approvals are in place, the “Keep the Music Playing” campaign will roll out.
It’s a $25 million capital campaign of which $7.5 million has been pledged, according to Horowitz.
The first phase is $15 million and then rest will come in the form of naming rights as the project progresses, Horowitz said.
Plans will need to be reviewed and approved by the citizen-led historic preservation commission.
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The Roaring Fork Valley has, by-and-large, avoided the mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle infestations that have decimated parts of the state. However, a 2019 aerial survey showed the Roaring Fork watershed has an outbreak of Douglas-fir and western balsam beetles.