The future of the riverfront space that the Aspen Art Museum will vacate this summer is up for a discussion at a City Council work session this week.
The North Mill Street structure — which the Aspen Art Museum is expected to vacate this summer — has been courted by various entities and nonprofits in the community. Some want to occupy the space for their sole purpose, while other nonprofits and entities have discussed sharing the space.
The building needs roughly $1 million in repairs before anyone moves in, according to city estimates, and on Tuesday, during a work session, the council will offer input on who should cover that cost: the city or new tenants. City staff also has recommended installing a commercial kitchen, estimated to cost between $300,000 and $600,000. The kitchen would serve a variety of uses, including special events and kitchen rentals, according to a city memorandum.
The last time the council met on the issue, Councilman Dwayne Romero suggested a science center at the location. Councilman Art Daily liked Romero’s idea, while Mayor Steve Skadron regarded it as “not an absurd proposition.” Since then, the nonprofit Aspen Science Center has formally announced its interest in leasing the building for an Aspen Science Center and Museum. During an open house, the city polled 30 people on the science center idea, with 18 “no” votes and 12 “yes” votes, according to the memo.
To begin narrowing the discussion, city staff has offered three scenarios for potential building uses: single-use by one non-city entity; multi-use by various city and non-city entities; or a community center run by a nonprofit or the city. For the community center idea, staff has suggested the Wheeler Opera House play a role in coordinating operations.
Although the Art Museum is expected to move into its new Hyman Avenue space this summer, it has a full year to vacate the location, known as the Old Power House. The memo asks the council to consider delaying the conversion of the space to its ultimate use so that city entities can use it on an interim basis, potentially including the Aspen Police Department, the Building Department and the Engineering Department. Those three, as well as 21 other departments, have been surveyed for the city’s Municipal Facilities Master Plan, a comprehensive look at the current uses and future needs of 14 city-occupied spaces.