ACRA gets new address, and city willing to buy it
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association ought to move its offices and visitor center to Main Street, and the city ought to own the space, the City Council agreed Monday.
Four of the five council members concurred they’d like to see a formal lease/purchase agreement for space to house chamber functions in a new building that property owners Gary Freedman and Lowell Meyer have proposed next to US Bank on Main Street. Councilman Terry Paulson opposed the idea.
Formal city approval of both the purchase deal and the development application for the building are yet to come.
The proposed purchase price ” $1.03 million for about 3,000 square feet ” will cost the city an estimated net subsidy of $41,600 per year for 20 years. In all likelihood, the expenditure will have to come from the city’s general fund, which it uses to support government operations.
It’s unlikely the city could buy land and build a facility to house the ACRA, noted Councilman Tim Semrau.
“This is an incredible opportunity to get everything we need in one sweep,” he said.
Both the city and ACRA have acknowledged the need for a more visible visitor center than the existing one, which is tucked into the city’s parking garage along with the ACRA’s headquarters, off Rio Grande Place.
Freedman and Meyer have proposed what would be a three-story building from its Main Street facade, including a ground-floor visitor center and free-market housing on the upper two stories. A garden level, accessed off a courtyard, would contain the ACRA offices.
Council members appeared to agree the project could forgo affordable housing ” that component could be mitigated elsewhere. It’s possible to build housing in the current ACRA office space, said City Manager Steve Barwick.
He outlined three scenarios to the council ” to purchase the new ACRA space, lease it or lease only space for a visitor center and leave the chamber offices where they are.
If the council likes the Main Street site, then buying it makes the most financial sense for the city, Barwick advised.
“Are you willing to pay about $42,000 per year … to make that happen?” he asked.
The chamber currently leases space from the city for $75,000 annually, but subleases most of it to Stay Aspen Snowmass, so its net rent is $27,150 annually. The chamber has agreed to pay $50,000 annually in rent for the new space to help offset the city’s costs.
But if the city is going to use its general fund to buy the space, Councilwoman Rachel Richards stressed she’ll want the chamber to dole out recommendations to visitors equitably ” with no regard for whether a lodge, restaurant or other business is a chamber member or not.
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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