Emma Store: We own it now what? | AspenTimes.com

Emma Store: We own it now what?

John Colson The Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

EMMA Now that the public owns the group of historic but deteriorating buildings known as the Emma Store complex, the next issue is to decide exactly what to do with them. Pitkin County Open Space & Trails in early July bought the buildings, which sit on a 12.5-acre meadow looming over half-mile of Roaring Fork River frontage just downvalley from Basalt, for $2.65 million. The structures include a house built in 1898, and an adjacent commercial structure built in the same year that long housed a mercantile business and the Emma post office. There also is a smaller structure of the same vintage, known as the armory for its use as storage space for explosives, located just behind the mercantile building. The Victorian-style house, which has been lived in more or less continuously since it was built, is in pretty good shape, said county historic preservation expert Suzannah Reid. But time, winter snows and leakage have collapsed the roof on both sides of the old store building, which is divided in the middle by a brick wall. And there are huge gaps in the brick walls of the old armory building at the back. Reid readily conceded that, if something is not done quickly to shore up the deteriorated structures to prevent further damage from snow and rain, the whole thing could fall in on itself. Were trying to pull together a group of people who have expertise in various aspects of this to help us figure out what to do, said open space and trails director Dale Will recently although he said on July 31 that the makeup of the committee was still in flux. One option that is being discussed, Will said, is to stabilize the old store building and move it back on the property from where it now sits, a scant six feet from Highway 82, protected only by a Jersey barrier. Will said former owner Owen Minney, who also wanted to save the buildings, once got an estimate of $800,000 to move the buildings using rails laid along the ground. I think the buildings certainly can be saved, said Reid, who will be part of the committee debating the old buildings fate. She said the first objective is to stabilize the walls and mothball the structure to prevent further deterioration, and she hopes the committee can make us of government grants to do so. Grants for short-term stabilization, mid-term planning and long-term restoration are likely available, she mused. It is important, she said, to get the building stabilized before next winter, and she plans to begin the task using funds from local government rather than grants, which take too long. As for the price tag for the stabilization work, she said, Im hoping it will be in the tens [of thousands of dollars] just to remove the stress [of the collapsing roof beams pulling the brick walls inward.] At this point, she said, Were not even talking about roofing or anything like that. Will said he has toured the deteriorated structures with building experts, who also have warned him that the stabilization will be both challenging and hazardous. The buildings are by far the most critical, Will remarked, but he added that he also is talking with local horticulture experts about how to preserve a grove of century-old fruit trees that came with the property. Im already talking to some private foundations, scrambling to find the wherewithal to get [ the buildings] through the next winter, Will said. jcolson@aspentimes.com

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