Aspen City Council screens first two power house applicants
The Aspen Times
The Aspen City Council interviewed the first two applicants vying to move into the soon-to-be-vacant Old Power House building Monday during a work session that focused on the applicants’ financial information and programming for the space.
Aspen Brewing Co. owner Duncan Clauss and Aspen 82 co-owner David Cook pitched the first concept Monday, followed by longtime resident Paul Kienast. Scheduled for a second round of interviews today before the Aspen City Council are the final three applicants: The Red Brick Council for the Arts, the Aspen Science Center and GrassRoots TV.
Power Plant Brewery
Clauss and Cook are proposing to redevelop the Mill Street space into a multi-use structure consisting of collaborative workspace for freelancers and entrepreneurs, a live television studio, a brewery and restaurant and event programming.
In the past, officials have contended that the building is in need of about $1 million in repairs, and city staff has recommended the installation of a commercial kitchen, which would cost between $300,000 and $600,000. Clauss said his business has been preparing as if it would be on the hook for about $1.7 million in buildout, though Councilman Dwayne Romero pointed out that officials have not ruled out city contributions. City Manager Steve Barwick noted that the city has budgeted about $700,000 in 2015 for exterior work of the building.
“I’m confident we have the funding needed to pull off this renovation,” Clauss said, citing about 20 investors and “a great relationship” with Vectra Bank.
Based on five-year projections, organizers anticipate about $83,000 a year in net income from the upstairs workspace, money that Cook said would be fed entirely into public programs. The brewery and restaurant could pull in between $200,000 and $320,000 annually in for-profit net income.
The upstairs workspace would be managed in part by Gordon Bronson, a co-organizer of Hub Aspen, a similar concept that foundered in the face of Aspen lease rates.
Mayor Steve Skadron asked Clauss and Cook what happens with the space should one of the four business components fail.
“That’s the peril of any business or nonprofit,” Cook said.
While financial difficulty from Aspen 82 or the workspace would have less effect, Cook said if the brewery ran into trouble, “there would need to be serious consideration about who would take their place.”
Clauss said since the brewery’s inception, his goal has been to become self-sustaining as a brewer before competing in Aspen’s competitive restaurant industry. After doubling beer production last year and more than doubling it this year, he said Aspen Brewing Co. is a fast-growing manufacturer, and the Mill Street space would only serve as one component of the company’s full offering.
“We’re confident that this gets our young professional demographic engaged in all things Aspen,” Clauss added. “The (Power Plant Brewery) will create Aspen’s most dynamic gathering place, where all corners of the community will come to interact, create and celebrate all that is Aspen, Colorado.”
Power House Aspen — the Gathering Place
Kienast proposes a community-center concept, one he said has been in high demand since the loss of the Given Institute and more recently the Rio Grande Building. His proposal, which features a new Taster’s Pizza, a cafe and event space for various groups in town, would be largely managed and funded by the city.
While Kienast has not lined up financial backing, he said he envisions a space funded evenly by the city and private donations. Additionally, Kienast, who has a construction background, and architect Lea Sisson would donate their expertise so that the structure’s remodel would cost an estimated $200,000.
With his father Dick Kienast as the inspiration, Paul Kienast said he wants to create a friendly, community space that fosters positive thinking and encouragement. His list of potential uses includes anything from a small quilting group or book club to large groups such as corporate retreats, lectures, seminars, dances and weddings. The idea also would carry a spiritual element through yoga, meditation or other ideas community members pitch.
“I’m not doing this for money,” Kienast said. “I’m doing this for my community. I want fulfillment in my life. I’m trying to find that through social interaction with people.”
Romero said Kienast is touching on something Aspen needs, a social, emotional factor the broader community has not been able to address. However, he asked Kienast what he would say to those who don’t want the government to grow larger and who would not be enthused by the city hiring additional staff to take on this venture.
“To the critics, I would say it wouldn’t take much more for the city to operate this building, with a couple people from the private sector,” Kienast said. “After the buildout, all the city would really need to do is maintain the grounds, do the bookkeeping, cover the insurance and maybe one or two salaries.”
He added that with the demand from smaller groups for meeting space, the financial need would be lessened.
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