A committee of local residents — along with two city staff members — will help narrow the field of potential suitors for the soon-to-be-vacant riverside space currently occupied by the Aspen Art Museum, the Aspen City Council decided Tuesday during a work session.
The committee, to be chosen by city officials from a pool of applicants, will be made up of five to seven members, including two city staffers.
Those applying for the space — which has been dubbed the Old Power House — are asked first to submit general information, including any request for city subsidy involved in their plans, their vision for the space and their willingness to share the building.
The North Mill Street building requires about $1 million in repairs, in addition to a recommended $300,000 to $600,000 commercial kitchen that would be used for special events and kitchen rentals.
In the second step of the three-step selection process, the resident committee will narrow the field to five or fewer applicants, with the council reserving the right to review any discarded parties. In step three, the council will take formal action, based on resident recommendations and applicant responses to a city-issued request for proposal.
After wondering whether they were overcomplicating things, members of the council, at least the majority, concluded that it would be best to involve the public in the search.
“I think it’s going to improve the quality of the decision by having a hybrid task force on the assignment, walking through this two-step review,” Councilman Dwayne Romero said.
Councilman Art Daily asked if the council was making the process more complicated than it needs to be, while Councilwoman Ann Mullins said she could do without an additional committee. Up to this point, she argued, the council has been transparent in the selection process, and it has gotten plenty of public feedback already.
“It broadens community involvement in the process,” Mayor Steve Skadron said of the committee. “It helps inform the process beyond what the five of us are thinking.”
In the end, the majority of the council agreed with Skadron and Romero.
When the council last met on the issue in June, some 20 residents suggested potential uses — some overlapping — for the building. Ideas for the 7,200-square-foot space included: an Aspen Science Center; a Powerhouse Performing Events Center managed by the Red Brick Council for the Arts; an Aspen Media Powerhouse managed by GrassRoots TV; hostel beds; a microbrewery managed by Aspen Brewing Co.; and incubator space for entrepreneurs managed by organizers of Aspen Startup Weekend.
Residents who are on the boards of any organization applying for the space are ineligible for the committee. City Attorney Jim True said a conflict of interest, such as board affiliation, can be easy to determine, while personal biases may be more difficult to judge.