Snowmass eyes performing arts facility | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass eyes performing arts facility

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times staff writer

Right now it is just a 12,000-square-foot concept shown on the sketch plan for the proposed Base Village. But in the eyes of the Snowmass Village Arts Advisory Board, it could be a 300-seat performing arts center.

“To attract first-class performing groups to Snowmass, the performance venue has to be first class, too, meaning stadium seating, first-class lighting and sound, and space for scenery and dressing rooms,” the board wrote in a memo to the Snowmass Village Town Council.

“Then we believe we can attract events from Aspen’s Filmfest, Theatre in the Park, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Aspen Music Festival rehearsals and student concerts, as well as traveling companies for theater, jazz, classical concerts, etc., who would not otherwise come to Snowmass.”

Two members of the advisory board, Chris Nolen and Larry Ladin, described the potential of a new performance space to the town council on Monday.

And they got a smattering of applause.

Mayor T. Michael Manchester backed the idea of spending about $5,000 to have a consultant take an initial look at whether the idea would make economic sense and whether Base Village was the right location.

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Councilman Doug Mercatoris voiced support for the concept and pointed out that other similar amenities in Snowmass Village were forced out in the past by high rents.

Paul Shepherd, a vice president with Intrawest, which is proposing to build Base Village, said he presently sees the underground space as something that would work for jazz performances but still be available for conferences and meetings.

But the arts advisory board sees it more as a “traditional raked floor auditorium with the facilities (stage, lighting, support areas, etc.) for theatrical performances,” according to a memo from Snowmass Village Town Manager Mike Segrest, who recently managed the development of an arts center in Lakewood, Colo.

“A performance facility of the size and type proposed by the Committee would cost between five and ten million dollars based on recent similar projects with which staff is familiar,” Segrest wrote. “Such a facility also will require ongoing subsidy, which would need funding from public or private sources. A project of this scale will require voter approval before the Town Council could build it.

“If provided by the Base Village applicants as a community purpose it would require a major redesign of the current project to bring the facility to ground level and likely require the elimination of other elements in the current plan,” Segrest concluded.

Under Snowmass’ land-use code, a “community purpose” is an amenity, such as a performance space, that a developer can provide in order to offset the negative impacts of building over the town’s prescribed height and density levels.

Intrawest, along with its partner the Aspen Skiing Co., is currently preparing a detailed application to the town for the Base Village project, which is expected to include about 650 residential units, a children’s ski center, 100,000 square feet of retail space, and a gondola plaza.

When the town council granted conceptual approval to the project, it told Intrawest to be ready to discuss several community benefits.

While Base Village is only one potential location in town, it is also the only project that has 12,000 square feet of space set aside as a “jazz club” and that is soon coming forward to work out a complicated deal with the town council.

And while the members of the arts advisory board have lofty ambitions, they are not blinded by the lights just yet.

“We feel that everybody agrees that a Snowmass Village performing arts center would be a good asset for the town,” said Ladin. “But we have to descend from the clouds and look at it very carefully.

“Where is it going to be located? And it’s got to have a good location.

“How much does it cost to build? And if it’s not built properly it isn’t worth doing.

“And what can we make as realistic estimates of the commercial benefits? Cultural benefits, nobody has to discuss, that’s very clear.”