Wheeler expansion inches forward before Aspen City Council
October 27, 2009
ASPEN – The proposed $30 million expansion of the Wheeler Opera House inched closer to gaining conceptual approval from the Aspen City Council, whose members said Monday they still want more details about the funding for the project, how the space would be used, and the public benefit of the project.
“The examining of the long-term financial picture is incumbent upon us,” Mayor Mick Ireland said.
The architectural team for the expansion of the Wheeler, and the venue’s executive director, Gram Slaton, are scheduled to continue the discussion Dec. 7. The proposal remains in its conceptual phase, and cannot move forward without council approval.
Slaton told the council that the $30 million, 32,000-square-foot expansion would be funded by the $27 million Wheeler’s endowment fund, with another $3 million needed.
About $2.7 million is projected in Real Estate Transfer Tax revenues for Wheeler coffers this year.
Wheeler officials presented the council with a financial pro forma regarding the expansion, which includes a three-level facility that would be located west of the existing opera house, on a vacant parcel the city bought in 1982.
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Approximately 19,816 square feet would be reserved for commercial use; 9,757 square feet would be designated for arts, cultural and civic use; and another 2,521 square feet would be for affordable housing and office space.
The new venue would accommodate up to 265 patrons (the existing Wheeler Opera House auditorium has 503 seats). Wheeler officials, using what they said was a “conservative estimate,” said the new venue would play host to 30 Wheeler events, 50 events presented by local arts groups, 100 movie screening and 20 rehearsal dates.