Aspen City Council wraps up power house interviews |

Aspen City Council wraps up power house interviews

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
This conceptual image shows the Old Power House redeveloped as the Red Brick's Powerhouse Center.
Red Brick/Courtesy image |

The Aspen City Council wrapped up interviews with applicants vying to move into the soon-to-be-vacant Old Power House building Tuesday, with presentations from the Red Brick, the Aspen Science Center and GrassRoots TV.

Those three are up against the Aspen Brewing Co. as well as resident Paul Kienast for the right to move into the Mill Street space the Aspen Art Museum is currently vacating. The public will have the chance to weigh in on the matter on March 10, when the council could choose either one or two of the applicants to proceed in negotiating for the space. If the council cannot come to a decision on March 10, a second hearing would be scheduled on the issue a week later.

The riverside building is in need of about $1 million to $2 million in repairs and upgrades.

The Red Brick

The Red Brick, a nonprofit arts organization, is proposing the Powerhouse Center, a concept that would feature three community spaces: a performance auditorium that would seat about 160 people and two smaller spaces for community gathering. The building also would include office space leased by Theatre Aspen and a cafe for the public.

The organization anticipates between $1 million and $2 million in buildout, $350,000 of which would come from city funds, according to the proposal. City Manager Steve Barwick has said the city has budgeted $750,000 in exterior work on the building for 2015. However, on Tuesday, Red Brick director Angie Callen said the organization is prepared to shoulder the entire cost.

“(Aspen Brewing Co. Owner) Duncan (Clauss) said it really well yesterday,” Callen said. “If you hand me the keys tomorrow, I’m on it. We’ll figure it out.”

For its first year of operation, the Red Brick is projecting about $18,000 in net income, between $282,000 in revenue and $264,000 in expenses.

With a years worth of programming scheduled for various arts organizations in the building, Callen said there is high demand for the uses the Red Brick is proposing. Mayor Steve Skadron said what he liked about Kienast’s proposal is the accessibility to the entire community and asked Callen how the Powerhouse Center will appeal to the broader community.

Senior gatherings and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings were among the events Callen said the structure could support. Anyone in the community can reserve space, she said.

Even so, she noted that the arts-focused concept nurtures a big part of what Aspen already is.

“Arts and culture is the reason other resort towns envy us,” she said. “It is why they want to be us. It is why we have more people here in the summer than in the winter, and this further supports that.”

The Aspen Science Center

The nonprofit Aspen Science Center is proposing an educational campus that would feature a science discovery park, exhibit halls, learning galleries, a science store and a cafe. Areas of study include astronomy, chemistry, biology, physics and technology. The discovery park would include a solar telescope, an observatory and sound shells, while cooking and brewing classes would cater to the older demographic.

The organization anticipates a buildout of about $1.5 million and claims to have raised nearly $1 million toward the effort in just more than a month. The science center is projecting about $950 in net income for its first year of operation, between $215,000 in revenue and $214,050 in expenses. After that, income projections range between $6,000 and $47,000. A portion of revenue would come from admission fees, ranging between $4 and $8 a day, depending on age. Yearly passes would range between $25 and $100.

Councilman Adam Frisch said he didn’t want to single the organization out on admission fees, because the other applicants aren’t modeled the same way. However, he encouraged board chairman Mike Simmons to find a way to allow free access.

Director Jacquelin Francis said the center will appeal to all age groups. Along with classes geared toward children and adults, she said high schoolers will participate as well as teach courses. Year-round college interns also will be included in programming. The science of snow or a mountain rescue are a few examples of educational offerings she provided.

“This is a recipe unique to Aspen and quite possibly unique to the world,” she said.

Skadron asked if this concept isn’t duplicating efforts in Aspen, and if the answer is no, why isn’t this a discussion for the Aspen School District board.

Simmons said about 450 such centers around the country have opted not to approach school officials for collaboration.

“Mike, it’s unfortunate, isn’t it?” Skadron asked.

“It is,” Simmons said.

GrassRoots TV

GrassRoots TV, a nonprofit television station, is proposing the Aspen Media Powerhouse. It would include an experimental media lab, performance space, a movie theater, video archives, a virtual art gallery and a research kitchen that caters to cooking demos and shows. The organization is planning a three-year, $3 million buildout that would result in a state-of-the-art community television studio open for public use.

Local entertainment industry professionals Joey Stokes and Rueben Sadowsky would serve as collaborators in the space. The group has hosted an X Games party in the past and recently pitched a similar party for the Old Power House space this winter. At the Media Powerhouse, the duo would host a bi-monthly event with a performance-art component.

The organization projects a net income of about $9,000 for its first year of operation and between $3,000 and $15,000 annually after that.

GrassRoots TV director John Masters emphasized the concept for Studio X, which he said will allow the community to experiment with the latest video equipment. There’s also Spectrum Hall, a television studio with robust TV capability and large-format, high-definition equipment, he said.

“In the long run, that facility is going to be so much more useful to so many more people,” Masters said. “And this isn’t just us figuring this out. It’s really the community figuring it out.”

As he did with the other applicants on Tuesday, Skadron said he wants to avoid duplicating services in the community. He asked Masters how the Media Powerhouse would offer something that Colorado Mountain College’s Isaacson School of New Media doesn’t already offer.

For one, Masters said that school is located in Glenwood Springs and Spring Valley. While both the school and Media Powerhouse allow access to media tools, GrassRoots offers equipment to the entire community, not just those involved in academia.

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