Aspen Brewery, Oklahoma Flats neighbors in private talks |

Aspen Brewery, Oklahoma Flats neighbors in private talks

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
The Aspen Power Plant group hopes to open a brewery, TV station and incubator space at the old Aspen Art Museum location on North Mill Street. Residents of the nearby Oklahoma Flats neighborhood, however, are against the rezoning the property for a brewery because of the potential for increased traffic, noise and parking. Both sides have been in private talks about the matter.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Everything but the beer.

That’s essentially the position of a neighborhood group that is taking on the Aspen Power Plant project, which would include a brewery and television studio.

Private discussions have been ongoing between residents of the Oklahoma Flats neighborhood and those behind the project — Aspen Brewing Co. and the Aspen 82 channel.

All the while, the Aspen Power Plant group has been in lease discussions with the city of Aspen, whose City Council favored the project in March over the four other finalists that came from the nonprofit sector.

Plans call for the Aspen Power Plant to move into the Old Power House on Mill Street, which is city-owned space currently occupied by the Pitkin County Library while it remodels and expands its existing building. The 7,200-square-foot space would include a beer garden, restaurant, TV studio and event space on the ground floor and incubator workspace above.

It’s no coincidence that both the lease discussions and talks between the neighbors and Aspen Power Plant group are happening at the same time, City Attorney Jim True said.

That’s because parking, a big sticking point for the neighbors, likely would be addressed in the lease as well as other components.

“We’re moving forward with it and putting together some type of lease language just so we can have some starting points for everybody that may have an interest in this,” True said.

Bill Budinger, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Flats group and a homeowner, as well, said residents are concerned about the potential for increased traffic, parking and noise in their neighborhood, which abuts the site. But neighbors aren’t concerned about the TV station or incubator space — just the brewery.

The property also would have to be rezoned for a brewery.

“Frankly, we would like to see a nice nonprofit, community-oriented, community service,” Budinger said. “If the brewery insists on serving liquor and following the organization’s application, we don’t see how that would work.”

Aspen Brewing Co. owner Duncan Clauss, however, had a different take on what’s driving the discussions.

“My impression is a little different,” he said. “My impression was that parking along the street into the neighborhood and the noise were the main concerns of the neighborhood, and I’m very confident that we can find common ground with the neighbors to find some sort of operational parameters without totally cannibalizing the project to City Council.”

Clauss said he has met with Budinger twice, “and we’d like to keep those conversations confidential. My understanding is that parking and noise were the primary concerns.”

Clauss said the lease with the city also would address those concerns.

But Budinger said rather than a brewery at the spot, “if instead they were talking a Peach’s kind of place, I think the neighbors would look more favorably upon it. It’s the alcohol and the party. The TV station, no problem. And actually many of us like the idea of incubator space.”

Budinger said nothing is off the table if the complete Aspen Power Plant comes to fruition with a lease and rezoning of the property. Neighbors, he said, are “ready to defend their homes.”

“I think the neighbors would leave no stone unturned and they would look at every possible option,” he said. “They bought into this area because it was quite a residential area. And it was zoned that way.”

Clauss expressed confidence that the brewery and the rest of the project will happen. The library is scheduled to be out of the space by the end of January, and Clauss envisions an opening in spring 2017.

“Our excitement for the project has not changed at all,” he said. “If anything, it’s only grown. We’re really excited about the full potential of our proposal and all of the components to it.”