Why expand in this economy? | AspenTimes.com

Why expand in this economy?

Dear Editor:

A recent letter writer asked why, in this economy, the Wheeler Expansion Project is going forward. To briefly respond: The Wheeler Opera House is taking advantage of declining construction costs and using its healthy endowment to move forward.

The expansion project has been part of the long-range planning for the Wheeler since 1979, meaning 30 years of discussion, planning and community thought. Now is the time to capitalize on the current state of the economy ” with costs for construction having dropped 15 to 20 percent in our valley ” and move forward with this long-awaited idea.

The major funding mechanism for the Wheeler Opera House, the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), currently is on target for this year, but we have worked diligently to adjust our budgets to reflect possible drops in RETT collections. The RETT does not expire until December 31, 2019. It is possible that Aspen City Council will ask the voters to renew the RETT before that time to further secure the Wheeler’s financial future.

The Wheeler’s endowment account has more than $26 million in it at the present time, and even in a depressed year like 2008, the Wheeler still had a sufficient overage to continue to contribute to this fund. We are being careful to protect this fund to keep “lights on” at the Wheeler for many years to come, hopefully with the addition of space for many important artistic and cultural pursuits.

As a reminder, the public is invited to meet members of the creative design team tasked with working on the pre-design and planning stages for the possible expansion on April 6 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Wheeler lobby. We hope you will join us to learn even more about this important community project.

Sally Spaulding

director of community relations

city of Aspen

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