Plan in works to save Isis

John Colson

A plan to save the Isis Theatre is nearing completion, according to officials at Aspen City Hall, and might be announced publicly early next week.One official said Tuesday that the city hopes to announce Monday, Sept. 25, the signing of a “memorandum of understanding” between the city and a group of investors to keep the Isis, or most of it, as a movie theater.A source in city government said the plan involves conversion of part of the building to retail shops, and that four of the theater screens are to be preserved, though city officials had not released details of the plan by Wednesday afternoon.The source said that the deal involves the issuance of “certificates of participation” to the investors in exchange for investment of undisclosed amounts of money.In the name of preserving Aspen’s last full-time movie house, city officials were negotiating with the current owners last spring to buy the theater for $8.75 million. But those talks broke down in May, and city officials have had little to say on the topic since then.Assistant City Manager Bentley Henderson said this week that a press conference is planned for 4:30 p.m. Monday to discuss a “memorandum of understanding” that the city has been working on for some time, and that he believed the subject is the Isis.Henderson said he has “been out of the loop” regarding efforts to preserve the Isis and knows none of the details, and referred questions to Assistant City Manager Randy Ready.Ready declined to speak much about the matter, saying, “It’s not completely done … I don’t want to jinx it in any way.”Asked about the intended use of “certificates of participation,” he acknowledged that they are “financing tools that municipal governments are allowed to use … that are backed by pieces of property, by real estate.” Ready said the property involved would be the Isis in this case.But no public announcement of an Isis-related agreement has been scheduled, he said, adding that “It will probably be late Friday or early Monday before we can wrap that up.”City Attorney John Worcester, asked about the deal, said flatly, “I can’t confirm that there is a deal.” But, he added, “it’s no secret that the City Council has gone into executive session twice” to talk about how to save the Isis, which has long been up for sale and in danger of being redeveloped as something other than a theater.Finance Director Paul Menter, while also refusing to talk about “anything related to the Isis,” said that certificates of participation are not a new method of financing for the city. He said the same device financed the construction of the Rio Grande parking garage in the 1990s.City Manager Steve Barwick is out of town and was not available for comment. Real estate broker Heidi Houston, who has the listing for the Isis Theatre building, could not be reached for comment, either.John Colson’s e-mail address is