Aspen Center for Environmental Studies declines partnership with Town of Snowmass for Base Village building 6
September 5, 2017
To the disappointment of all five Snowmass Town Council members, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies on Sept. 5 declined to partner with the town to curate a discovery and climate center in Building 6 of Base Village.
"After carefully conducting internal due diligence on the feasibility of ACES leading the fundraising, the programming, the build out and the content of the Discovery Center," ACES Executive Director Chris Lane said to the town council, "The ACES board of trustees have concluded that it is not prudent at this time for ACES to be the organization, the sole organization, to lead this effort due primarily to fundraising capacity concerns."
The local nonprofit Snowmass Discovery approached ACES last fall inquiring about a possible partnership in Building 6 — a community-use designated building that Base Village developers, as part of the project's approvals, will dedicate to the town government.
In January, Snowmass Discovery and ACES met before the Town Council at a work session to discuss potential opportunities for collaboration.
“The ACES board of trustees have concluded that it is not prudent at this time for ACES to be the organization, the sole organization, to lead this effort due primarily to fundraising capacity concerns.” ACES Executive Director Chris Lane
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As such, Lane and ACES board member Michael Carricarte asked the town to allow them six months to determine the financial feasibility of such an undertaking, to which the council obliged.
Upon further assessment and number crunching, Lane said that ACES believes the start-up costs will exceed what had been projected.
"We believe that the estimated $4 (million) to $6 million … is currently contemplated as not accurate," Lane said. "We believe it's an $8 (million) to $10 million range."
As part of the proposed partnership, the town of Snowmass offered to contribute $350,000 each year for the first three to help with start-up costs, according to a letter the Town Council presented and had hoped ACES would sign.
Further, the letter stated, "understanding that this is a long-term partnership and the ongoing operations of the facility need to be addressed, the town will commit $100,000 annually to ACES for the 11 years following the start-up contribution."
"Based on this significant increase, which is a change, we believe we cannot succeed given donor meetings we've had, the work put in last six months and some potential extent to compete with future ACES' needs, as well," Lane said. He added shortly after, "But we still look forward to partnering with the town to further the vision of this science Discovery Center as a strategic partner, and we would be open to a more collaborative, diversified role in the future."
While none of the council members hid their disappointment, as a whole the elected officials expressed both an understanding and a desire to find another way to bring ACES into Building 6 in some capacity.
"That's sorely disappointing," were Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler's first words.
"I appreciate your honesty, all the hard work, but tonight I'm sure people in Snowmass Village and many of our guests are going to say, 'Oh my, oh my,'" Butler continued. "So with that, we'll take a deep breath. That was very hard for you to deliver that message."
After ACES' piece, people from the local community and beyond — including Snowmass Discovery Executive Director Tom Cardamone, Chairman John Rigney and board member Rhonda Bazil, the Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center's Stephanie Lukowski, former Snowmass Mayor Doug "Merc" Mercatoris and several members, both retired and current, of the Children's museum of Indianapolis — articulated their support of a discovery and climate center inside Building 6.
Consequently, Butler proposed the creation of a "think tank" to help determine what the next step may be for Building 6.