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Keep Aspen, Aspen

I must disagree with my friend Su Lum on City Referendum 2E: “Should the city buy the Mother Lode restaurant for possible Wheeler Opera House expansion?”

Su has taken an uncharacteristically shortsighted view by recommending a no vote on that question. She fails to recognize that any private sector sale of the Mother Lode during these difficult economic times will likely result in the building being redeveloped (within the city’s historic preservation guidelines) to achieve its so-called “highest and best use.”

This could result in increased height and “floor area” and would almost certainly mean the end of any restaurant-type use of the Mother Lode building. Current trends indicate that, as in the case of the now-dead Aspen Drug, the likely occupant will be a real estate time-share sales office or some similar sterile activity, existing within the shell of the old Mother Lode.

Locals who feel a painful pang whenever they pass the old Aspen Drug building will get to feel similar pain each time they walk to or from the Wheeler or the Crystal Palace on Hyman Avenue.

I don’t believe that purchase of the Mother Lode building will put the city in the restaurant business. Just as in the case of Bentley’s, which is located in the Wheeler building itself, the Mother Lode would be operated by a private sector, rent-paying restaurant operator.

The Wheeler board, with community input and participation, would have ample time to decide how best to use the building and grounds in support of the Wheeler’s mission and our town’s traditions.

One of the important functions of our city government is to protect Aspen’s cultural character, which is all that really sets us apart from competing ski resorts.

When difficult economic conditions force the private sector to make decisions based on short-term, bottom-line thinking, we should feel fortunate that Aspen voters have already provided the Wheeler fund with sufficient resources to protect the character of its neighborhood and the character of downtown Aspen.

Please vote yes on City Referendum 2E, and help keep Aspen, Aspen.

Sy Coleman

Aspen


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