Aspen council to decide on ‘the list’
December 10, 2007
ASPEN ” The justification for preventing dozens of Aspen property owners from altering or demolishing their buildings has been made clear by city officials.
After five months of public debate over the City Council’s controversial emergency ordinance that forbids the demolition of buildings 30 years or older, city staff has provided rationale for each of the 89 properties identified on what’s known as “the list.”
The brief descriptions and history of each property has been given to the City Council, which is scheduled to vote Monday on whether the buildings should remain on the list for at least six months while a direction is taken on Aspen’s historic preservation program.
The explanations were in response to a request by City Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss who asked why each property should be deemed historically significant.
“When we vote we are endorsing that list, and I want to know what is on it,” DeVilbiss said at a recent City Council meeting. “I want sufficient information to make an endorsement on that list.”
The reasons for declaring the properties historic boil down to the buildings’ architect, its architecture, its prior owner or its significance in the town’s history.
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Local architect Fritz Benedict designed a lot of the homes and buildings targeted. And if they weren’t, many of them were designed by people who worked with or for Benedict. Benedict studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, a world-famous architect who had a hand in designing some buildings in Aspen.
City historic preservation officials also note famed architect Herbert Bayer, who designed many of the buildings on the Aspen Institute campus. Several buildings on the Aspen Meadows campus are on the list, much to the dismay of Aspen Institute Executive Director Amy Margerum, who has spoke out against the process and the list in recent months.
Many property owners have spoken against the ordinance, arguing that their values would plummet as a result of their buildings being pegged as potentially historic.
Other local architects like Sam Caudill, Tom Benton and Rob Roy are noted in the descriptions, as are buildings that serve as examples of Pan Abode and chalet-style architecture.
Some homes are considered historically significant because they encompass architecture that signifies the progression of Aspen as a tourist destination with modest vacation homes that pay homage to the mountain lifestyle.
The home at 407 N. Third St. is on the list because it was designed for Joseph Coors, founder of the brewing company.
Some community members have questioned the appropriateness of including certain commercial buildings on the list, contending some of them aren’t architecturally significant or structurally sound.
Many of them are considered historic because they fall into the mountain modern architecture era and utilize flat roofs, horizontal shapes and simple form.
The Aspen Athletic Club is one of those buildings, designed by Robin Molny, a local architect trained by Frank Lloyd Wright. The structure is Molny’s only commercial building in Aspen that hasn’t been altered, according to city staff.
The U.S. Bank building is on the list because Caudill ” the first modernist practicing in town, according to city staff ” designed it. The Wells Fargo Bank building was designed by Benedict and, hence, is on the historic list.
The North of Nell building is considered classic mountain-modern architectural style; it was designed by Ericsen and Stevens in 1968. The building’s saw-tooth roof and strong emphasis are integral to the modern interpretation of mountain ski town architecture, city staff said.
The Aspen Square Condominiums were designed by Benedict and represent his interpretation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy through the long, horizontal emphasis of the massing and character defining features like balconies, according to city staff.
The City Council will discuss the list and the proposed ordinance that regulates the properties before voting. Public comment will be allowed before the vote.
At least two council members ” Dwayne Romero and Steve Skadron ” are opposed to the list and ordinance. They have been against the historic ordinance since July, when the majority of the council decided there was an emergency posed by development pressures in Aspen. Many historic structures from the post-World War II era were being demolished at a rapid rate as a result, according to city staff.
Romero thinks the process should have been public and a communitywide discussion should have occurred before limiting property owners’ rights. And no explanation of the list will change that, he said.
“I personally can’t see that there is anymore rationale for the predicament we are in,” he said at a recent City Council meeting. “I don’t think [the list] will change the direction of the core discussion.
“Let’s start anew and drop the list.”