It might seem that the new Aspen Art Museum building at the corner of South Spring Street and East Hyman Avenue is going up fast, but the $40 million project is actually right on schedule, according to museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson.
“The Aspen Art Museum is excited to share that our project is on budget and on schedule, and we’re looking forward to welcoming the community to it on Aug. 9, 2014. We are exactly where we anticipated being” at summer’s end, Jacobson said.
Aug. 9 is the target date for the museum’s “community party,” she said, a 24-hour grand-opening celebration of the new 30,000-square-foot facility. Four exhibitions and two special projects will be on display.
“On that particular day, there will be everything from walkthroughs and talks about the exhibitions but also collaborations with some of our partners in town, including the Aspen Music Festival, Theatre Aspen, Aspen Film and a variety of our partner not-for-profits,” Jacobson said.
Turner Construction is the general contractor, and on Mondays through Saturdays there are typically 40 workers on the job on a daily basis, Jacobson said. The building crews get Sundays off, as the city prohibits construction activity on that day.
Jacobson said construction on the museum is unique because of the use of “post-tension slabs,” sections of concrete that have been pre-stressed to increase the strength of the concrete.
“It’s not a type of construction that’s traditionally done here in Aspen,” Jacobson said. “One of the reasons we’re doing (post-tension slabs) is because it gives us broad, open spaces without columns, which is what we need for the presentation of art. It also gives you a thin floor plate so you can get higher ceilings.”
The art museum’s website, www.aspenartmuseum.org, contains a “New Building” link to information on construction progress. The Web page says that fall 2013 work would involve roofing, exterior wall systems and interior partitions. Construction started in the spring of 2012.
Jacobson said what’s listed on the Web page’s time line is the work that’s underway now.
“That’s what we’re doing,” she said. “There’s a big crane on the site, and we are putting in the precast slabs that form the west wall of the building. They are 12-by-8, and each one weighs about 2,500 pounds. That’s what we’re doing this week and next week.”
When that part of the job is finished, the project will turn to utilities work along East Hyman Avenue, Jacobson said.
The art-museum project was a source of community controversy when it was approved by the Aspen City Council in August 2010. Critics claimed that it was too big and out of character for downtown Aspen. They also contended that the process leading to its approval was rushed and conducted under the threat of litigation.
The new building is going up at the site of the former Wienerstube restaurant. The museum’s board had considered a different site before negotiating a deal for that property. The Aspen City Council, the museum and the property owner announced in June 2010 that as part of a lawsuit settlement between the city and the landowner, the museum would seek to move to the heart of downtown Aspen.
Aspen Art Museum officials have said that they have outgrown their current facility, located in a city-owned building near the intersection of North Mill Street and Gibson Avenue near Rio Grande Park. More than 35,000 visitors from around the world pass through the museum’s doors annually, and officials said they needed a substantially larger building closer to the city’s center to suit future needs.
Jacobson said the new building will rise to the approved maximum height of 47 feet.
She said a $50 million fundraising goal to cover construction costs and an endowment to pay for future museum operations was met and extended 18 months ago. The new goal is $65 million, of which more than $60 million has been raised.