Silverthorne turns 50 in August. As it tends to happen with the approach of midlife anniversaries, town workers and residents over the past few years have been taking stock and asking themselves, “Is this all there is?”
That’s not a joke. For the latter part of its existence, Silverthorne has served primarily as an Interstate 70 wayside known for its factory outlet mall—one that just happens to be wedged between two mountain ranges, the Gore and Williams Fork, with the gold medal trout waters of the Blue River running through it. The closest thing Silverthorne has to a Main Street is Colorado Highway 9, which, as a four-lane road with a 35 mph speed limit, doesn’t exactly invite visitors to stop and walk around.
Yet starting with this summer’s grand opening of the $9 million Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, the town’s 50-year-old identity is about to change. The 16,000-square-foot facility includes a cutting-edge theater and will serve as the new home of the nationally recognized Lake Dillon Theatre Company (LDTC), which spent the first 21 of its 23 seasons up the highway in Dillon. The town funded two-thirds of the project, owns the building, and hopes it will not only add a hefty dose of culture to the town’s budget retail mix but anchor a whole new Silverthorne as a destination for those who appreciate the finer things in life.
“It’s very intentional,” says Joanne Cook, Silverthorne’s recreation and culture director and an 18-year town employee. “We’re using the arts as a catalyst for economic development and creating a vibrant identity, a sense of place, community pride. Those are all things that towns aspire to.”
The Performing Arts Center, which celebrates its grand opening June 24 with an all-day music lineup, is the prime attraction within the town’s new “Cultural Complex” that also includes the 15-year-old, 12,000-square-foot Silverthorne Pavilion. The Pavilion is a tomato’s, or bouquet’s, throw away from the outdoor stage at the new arts center—across the giant green lawn, on the banks of the river, below the hulking summit of Buffalo Mountain—but it will serve a complementary role now.
That becomes obvious the moment you walk into the art center’s cavernous reception hall, with 20-foot-tall windows and a bar that pours fine wine as well as single-malt Scotch. In the marquee, black-cinderblock-walled theater, catwalks overlay the stage, and seating accommodates as many as 200 spectators. The building also includes a secondary theater, two classrooms that double as intimate performance spaces (one of which will be known as The Lab and host solo acts), as well as office space for LDTC’s eight full-time employees upstairs.
Producing artistic director Chris Alleman says he doesn’t think the center will affect LDTC’s already stout caliber of talent, but “what it does is allow us to produce theater more efficiently and add more spectacle to our productions. This facility was designed by us to fit our needs exactly. It’s a wonderful honor that the town has such confidence in us.”
Meanwhile, a 90-second walk across Highway 9, a.k.a. the Blue River Parkway, brings you to what will soon be known as Fourth Street Crossing, a 3.8-acre public-private development that the town is billing as “Silverthorne’s Main Street.” Public outreach began in May for the project, which will include shops, eateries, and residential properties.
To connect its cultural anchor to Fourth Street Crossing, the town is engaged with the Colorado Department of Transportation to eventually build a pedestrian walkway over Highway 9. “We want people to walk across the street and feel very comfortable and for the traffic to be slower,” Cook says. “And we want there to be a reason for people to slow down.”
“Silverthorne is the youngest municipality in Summit County, and we know it,” she adds. “We are creating our history now.”