Mel Blumenthal

Kudos to the town of Basalt and the developers of Willits Town Center, who envisioned and are moving forward with a new, approximately 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art performing arts center in the heart of the Willits development. Too bad the powers that be in Snowmass Village aren’t as enlightened. 

The Basalt Town Council this week followed up on its planning and zoning commission’s unanimous recommendation to approve the site plan for the new Willits Arts Campus, which is anticipated to commence construction next spring. The new center, which will accommodate 240 seated patrons or 395 standing, will feature flexible space for dramatic and comedic performances, dance, film and musical presentations as well as other artistic and cultural endeavors.

In its original iteration known as The Temporary, it presented multiple events each week and attracted over 25,000 patrons during its 20-month life span, and generated well over an estimated $1 million in “spillover” business for neighboring businesses.

Its executive director characterized the facility as an economic driver for the town, which causes me to wonder why the powers that be in Snowmass Village haven’t taken up the call to build a similar facility in the heart of the village.

The Snowmass Village Town Council and town staff have shown recent interest in adding to the village’s almost non-existent arts and cultural attractions. To show they’re serious, they recently approved purchasing, with taxpayer dollars, several giant polyurethane ice cubes for a cool $100,000 to be placed in the village entryway. 

According to those charged with overseeing the town’s piggy bank, it’s stuffed with cash due to the red-hot resort economy, and the powers that be have been working overtime to figure out how to spend it all before the parade passes by. 

Many in the community have lamented the loss of the multipurpose performing arts facilities that once existed in the upper village. A proper movie theatre and facilities for the performing arts were early popular attractions in the village, but haven’t seen the light of day in many years. 

Promises of such a facility in Base Village are way overblown and clearly not state-of-the-art. The Base Village developers have put together a half-assed plan to set aside a small performance area in the building known as The Collective. It will neither attract nor be able to service the needs of high-level performance events, whether they be film or live presentations. 

In order to attract and retain guests and residents, a proper multipurpose entertainment facility is needed in the heart of the resort. Otherwise, the village will continue to lose out to all that Aspen, and soon, Willits will have to offer. 

If such a state-of-the-art facility were to be included in the heart of the resort, it would likely have the same result that the enlightened folk in Basalt have witnessed with their performing arts complex and similarly add to the economic vitality of the village.

The town already owns the Point Site, an ideal vacant parcel of land for such a facility directly across from town hall. A local architect has already conceptualized plans on his own dime for such a facility on that land parcel, which, with the town’s support and that of a few well-heeled donors, could become a prominent center for performing arts where the traffic is light and the living is easy.

‘Hang tough council’

Kudos to the Snowmass Village Planning Commission, which finally completed its review earlier this week of the extremely complex renovation and massive redevelopment of the Snowmass Center. Although there was not unanimity among the commissioners to recommend approval to the town council, the majority did agree to pass it up the chain but with many conditions and suggestions that require a lot more discussion and resolution before council approval is granted.  

Against the unbending attitude of the applicant and its design consultants exhibited during the many weeks of public meetings, several significant design, operational and community benefit issues raised by the commissioners were left unresolved. 

The applicant was not willing to compromise with the planning commission concerning obvious flaws in their proposal, holding out instead to negotiate with the town council which will soon begin its review of their application.

When that process begins, it’s incumbent that all concerned members of the community, Snowmass Center stakeholders as well as the town council take a close look at the issues raised by the planning commission and press the applicant to mitigate all the problematic issues in their plan or face denial of their application. 

Snowmass Center is the only local serving business center in the village and as such it’s critical to get this redevelopment right — otherwise the community will be forced to live with a dysfunctional development for the next 50-plus years.

Words of advice to the town council: Hang tough on behalf of those you were elected to represent — you’re in the driver’s seat on this one.


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