Given set to grow | AspenTimes.com

Given set to grow

Chad Abraham

The area in gray shows the planned addition to the north, or rear, of The Given Institute. (Courtesy Given Institute)

Given Institute officials unveiled plans Wednesday for a nearly $5 million addition, the Aspen landmark’s first since its construction in 1974.

They said the addition will allow the institute to host events year round.

Construction on the new 8,000-square-foot structure could begin in fall 2007. The building will include a dining room that can seat 210 people, doubling the institute’s capacity, and the plans also include renovations to the current building.

Several blueprints were on display at the institute for three members of Aspen City Council and officials from the Community Development Department and the Historic Preservation Commission.

Aspen architect Harry Teague and Dr. Richard Krugman, dean of the school of medicine at the University of Colorado, described problems with the current building and fund-raising plans for the new structure.

The Given Institute, in the quiet West End at the corner of West Francis and Garmisch streets, is on land once owned by Elizabeth Paepcke. In 1971, the Aspen matriarch donated half of her garden to the University of Colorado, which now owns the institute.

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It is used for medical seminars, scientific gatherings and a public lecture series, along with weddings and other non-university events ” Mayor Helen Klanderud told the dozen or so at the meeting that she attended a New Year’s Eve party actor Will Smith hosted there.

When Krugman became dean of the medical school in 1990, he said Paepcke told him the institute was getting a bit seedy. Teague said the current building will be brought up to code, and disabled access will be improved, as will the acoustics and other technology in the auditorium.

But the biggest result of the addition and renovation will be the ability to host events at any time. Currently, conferences can only be held in the summer because attendees sit outside for meals. About 3,000 doctors and others in the medical industry attend institute seminars every summer, Krugman said. The facility is booked solid from mid-June to mid-September.

“The Given Institute needs to be a year-round facility as a retreat and seminar site whenever the university has a need for it, and to be financially self-sustaining,” says a narrative of the plan.

The university subsidizes the Given Institute “to the tune of between $50,000 and $100,000 a year because you can’t generate enough business during the summer to carry it all year long,” Krugman said.

According to the plan, a kitchen equipped for caterers will be adjacent to the nearly 2,700-square-foot dining area, and a 28-foot-tall section of the new building will house a service elevator, a delivery area, storage and trash bins. The current building, renowned for its architecture, is 24 feet high, Teague said.

Because of the tree-filled landscape, he said it will be difficult for neighbors to see the new building. It will not be visible from the nearby Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Teague added.

About 30 invitations to Wednesday’s meeting were sent out to neighbors, said institute manager Janet Ferrara, but no residents attended. She said another public meeting likely will be held when the project moves closer to being approved.

Because the University of Colorado owns the institute, the city of Aspen does not have authority over land-use decisions on the property. The final approval, expected in April or May, rests with university regents and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Nevertheless, institute officials feel it is important to work with the city and residents “every step of the way,” Krugman said.

Klanderud said the city appreciated that effort. The building has significant historical importance to the community, she said, but it is not a designated historic property. Several years ago, the city and many residents feared the institute would be sold “and a residence would be built here or something to that effect,” Klanderud said. “But that is not going to happen, so we’re delighted.”

Teague is the architect on the project’s first phase. He said plans to improve the institute have been proposed before.

“One was just way too ambitious. It involved 15 units of housing,” he said. “And then there was another one that was too modest in that it didn’t really solve some of the problems.”

The institute’s capital campaign for the project will seek donations equally from seminar attendees ” “all of the people who’ve been coming to this place for 30 years and love it,” Krugman said ” and the Aspen community.

“Then we’ll want to build an endowment for the lecture series and for the staff,” he said.

The plan also calls for more meeting rooms and improvements to restrooms, the fire-alarm system and lighting.

Teague said that after the addition and renovations, the institute will be more energy-efficient than it is now.

Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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