A call to arms for the Isis | AspenTimes.com
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A call to arms for the Isis

There was an article last week that described how two different small towns were faced with the same challenge, and each town chose a different solution to the problem. The local downtown movie theater was threatened with closing in each town. Sound familiar? Each community determined that for many reasons it was imperative to preserve the film experience. In one case the government bought the theater and in the other the private sector came forward to do it. Each was a modest town with moderate resources both privately and publicly, and it was a challenge for each to stretch and accomplish what probably seemed to them to be unthinkable. I can imagine with limited resources that it was as daunting and as necessary for them to proceed as is Aspen’s need to save the Isis Theatre for film. Saving such a vital community asset as the Isis has nothing to do with what films are shown. Though we will all hope for the occasional provocative, artistic and independent film, the most important issue is for our dynamic resort town to have this diversionary, uplifting and stimulating film experience to serve residents and visitors. Really the solution is quite simple and profound, as it will involve all of us. First a short history. The private sector including the Paepcke, Brown, Shaw, Moore families, the 10th Mountain Division soldiers and others shaped modern Aspen in the late 1940s, ’50s, and early ’60s. These players built the infrastructure, salvaged and painted the residential and commercial buildings, and created the cultural, musical and recreational facilities which decidedly set Aspen apart from virtually every other ski resort town. The software was Paepcke’s Aspen Idea. The hardware was the place, the rejuvenated buildings and the skiing, business and cultural institutions. The next private sector surge came from a group of substantial families, Stranahan, McBride, Crown, Koch and others who came forward in the late 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and early 1980s by maintaining, solidifying, creating and expanding upon all the brilliant institutions created in the three decades before. Each of these families not only made lucrative investments, but each paid the community back by establishing foundations, making their operations the best and most sensitive environmentally, and brought forth new creations, like the Aspen Center for Physics, the Aspen Airport Business Center, the North Forty, a revitalized Aspen Institute, and an Aspen Skiing Co. that is now heralded as the greenest and most superb mountain operation anywhere. The latest wave of individuals, families and limited liability companies made bold and highly successful financial investments that has reshaped our community once again in the 1980s, ’90s, and early 21st century. These motivated, and highly-skilled persons and entities improved and built new hotels, restored older facilities ands downtown commercial buildings, developed new subdivisions, built affordable housing and residential properties, which dramatically reshaped our town and often shook our community at its very foundations. The marketplace brought virtually all of them often unexpected and astonishing returns on their investments. These people worked hand-in-glove with strict and stricter governmental limitations, designed to protect the scale, charm and feeling of this old, resilient mining town turned resort town. The names of this group includes but is not limited to Marcus, Heller, Butera, McManus, Bass, Kahn, Hills, Sarpa, various LLC’s, Houston, Goldsmith, Hecht, Semrau, Saliterman, Bellotti, Pardee, Ritchie and others. Now the community needs this successful group of entrepreneurs to band together and contribute 50 percent or more of the purchase price to purchase and preserve and operate the Isis Theatre and affordable housing for approximately $4 million. Some of this aforementioned group have already made substantial contributions, especially in the fields of education and health care. I am sure that each entity has made important financial and personal contributions to the community over time. However, it is time for each entity mentioned and perhaps others to contribute approximately $350,000 – $400,000 apiece, with the Isis owners bending and helping to make the best deal possible for the town. It is their turn to be a part of a critical payback to the town. The visionary politicians, who made far reaching proposals and implemented key land use legislation were Sardy, Barnard, Edwards, Shellman, Kinsley, and Standlay from the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s. Then it was Child, Ireland, Peters, Gassman, Tuite, Farris, Bennett, Richards, Hatfield and Klanderud, who took risks and pummeling in order to keep protecting and preserving our community and respecting the wild habitat. The unelected, but vocal street activists were Whitaker, Stomberger, Benton, Ryerson, Dunaway, Harvey, Cole, Coleman and many others who challenged the developers and elected officials to be alert, reserve, do the right thing and be ever watchful guardians of what remains of our community. The current City Council needs to propose to the people that the government, via bonds and taxes, will become partners with the private sector in this grand experiment and make up the difference in order to preserve this essential community asset. Everyone else, and especially those who directly thrived as part of the development teams through all of these real estate boom periods must contribute $5, $50 or $500 to make this a total community effort. This purchase price will look cheap tomorrow, and preserve a venue for film forever. This could work and be in the best long term interest of our town. Former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling, once in politics, is always an activist and a colleague among the “white shirts.”


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