City rejects proposal to use former youth center for displaced businesses | AspenTimes.com

City rejects proposal to use former youth center for displaced businesses

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Use of the former Aspen Youth Center to house a pair of businesses that will be displaced during the construction of Obermeyer Place is out of the question, the Aspen City Council agreed Tuesday.

Council members did approve temporary use of the former Zupancis parcel, which the city now owns, and space near the recycling center in Rio Grande Park for relocation of businesses during the redevelopment.

Use of the Zupancis property will be on a month-to-month lease after June 30, 2004, and the city can order the site vacated with 120 days’ notice in the event it settles on other plans for the property.

The developers plan to put some of the “tame and sedate” displaced businesses on the Zupancis property, making use of the house and garages there and placing several trailers on the site, said Tim Belinski, chief financial officer for Sport Obermeyer.

Trailers near the recycling bins will also house displaced tenants, he said.

Finding suitable quarters for the Bleeker Street Gym and Main Street Printing and Copy Service, however, is paramount. In fact, the ability to proceed with the Obermeyer Place project depends on it, warned Bill Murphy, landlord for the two businesses.

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Murphy warned the council he won’t sign over his building to accommodate the redevelopment if his tenants aren’t taken care of in a way that ensures their survival during the temporary relocation.

“You have to find a place in the neighborhood or the gym won’t make it through the transition and I won’t go along with this project,” he said. “I won’t put the gym out of business.”

Obermeyer has space at the Aspen Business Center for some businesses, but that won’t do for the gym, said its owner, Joe Vernier. If the Bleeker Street Gym can’t stay in town, near its present locale, it will go away, he said.

Developers concluded the recently vacated youth center building, located nearby, would be perfect as a temporary location for both the gym and the print shop. It offers approximately the same square footage they occupy now.

“We just thought, wow, this is a good fit,” Belinski said.

The city has plans to create office space for six employees on the second floor of the old youth center, but Obermeyer offered to lease office space in town for them as part of the arrangement.

In addition, Obermeyer proposed paying $4,000 in monthly rent for use of the Zupancis parcel and area near the recycling compound. That amount is to be finalized through negotiations with city staffers.

Council members, however, declined to give up the youth center building to the businesses. The third floor of the center is used frequently as meeting space by numerous community groups and Pitkin County government has expressed a desire to use it for meetings, as well, they noted.

In addition, the county has the first right of refusal to lease space in the center for office use before it is offered to the private sector.

“My concern about it is it’s public space,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “I’m seriously concerned about leasing public space to private business.”

“I just don’t see how we can justify tying up a public asset for two private businesses who don’t want to move a little farther out of town,” agreed Councilman Tim Semrau.

The council also turned down a request from the Jewish Resource Center to lease one or two floors of the old youth center.

“Basically, we would like to expand a lot of our youth and children’s programs,” said Rabbi Mendel Mintz.

Obermeyer is faced with relocating about two dozen businesses that currently operate in a collection of buildings north of Rio Grande Park, in the vicinity of East Bleeker Street, Rio Grande Place and Spring Street.

Existing structures will be razed to make way for a development that includes new space for existing businesses, free-market and deed-restricted housing, and medical offices. The project won the council’s final go-ahead on Monday.

The council’s refusal, however, to allow use of the former youth center by the gym and the printer presents a problem the developers will have to overcome, Belinski said.

“This isn’t, can we figure it out? We gotta figure it out,” he said.

“It’s not a huge bump in the road,” said Steve Szymanski, Obermeyer’s financial consultant. “If our efforts to find space, time after time are not successful, it will turn into a huge bump in the road.”

Construction of Obermeyer Place is slated to begin next spring and wrap up in the winter of 2004-2005 at the earliest. The developer is Obermeyer Redevelopment Co., established by Sport Obermeyer founder Klaus Obermeyer, a major landowner in the area to be redeveloped.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com.

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