Letter: Make downtown Basalt an arts district
September 18, 2013
Make downtown Basalt an arts district
To the members of Basalt Town Council, I have heard some preliminary ideas for the reuse of the Clark's/Phillips parcel in the center of town. The theme throughout these have been an increase of retail within this area.
It is my belief that increasing retail in downtown Basalt will actually harm the vitality of the historic downtown area rather than acting as an additional draw. With businesses struggling as it is, it makes no sense to add retail space at this time. Instead, what Basalt needs is a reason for people to come into the historic downtown area.
To that end, I would like to propose that the Town Council consider looking into using this area as a performing arts and entertainment complex. It is ideally situated to act as a linchpin for both the businesses along Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue. This use would serve to unite these two areas as careful planning would allow for easy pedestrian access to either Two Rivers Road or Midland Avenue. A theater in this area could host performances of our extremely active high school and middle school bands, adult and children's plays, lecture series, Aspen-Santa Fe Folklorico and Ballet performances, and I'm sure there are plenty other uses which would come to light.
All of these events would bring people into town where they could easily walk from the theater to a restaurant or do some shopping either before or after the show. Historic downtown Basalt would become a center for both nightlife and for arts in the midvalley area.
In addition, there would be the opportunity to redevelop the property along the river bank. This would, of course, require the cooperation of the existing hotel there, but if it could be relocated within the new complex then a riverside park connecting Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road could be created. This would work very nicely with Basalt's Future Land Use Plan, which cites the creation of a "riverfront open space system" as a very important component.
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Finally, one of the recurring issues for Basalt seems to be a lack of identity. With a performing arts complex, historic downtown would no longer be fighting with Willits over which area is the shopping center of Basalt. It would be clear — historic downtown is fun and unique, Willits is Basalt's shopping destination. This is not to say that merchants already in downtown pack up and leave; rather, there would be more need for the type of unique and locally owned shops that are currently there as well as more demand for outstanding restaurants. Bringing visitors in for performances and events would give us the patrons that these shops and restaurants need to keep their businesses vital. It would also give Basalt an identity as a town that encourages and fosters the performing arts.