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Aspen Historic Preservation Commission tries to save Given Institute

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
ALL |

ASPEN – In a last-ditch effort to save the Given Institute from demolition as its owner grows cozier with a potential buyer, the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission is applying to get the building listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

The effort was approved Wednesday night by unanimous vote in response to a University of Colorado medical school letter received near the end of May that it intended to sell the property to an unnamed buyer who won’t purchase the property unless the building is already gone.

CU’s attorney said in the letter that the city has no purview over the building because the land is technically owned by an arm of the state.

To begin the effort, which the HPC said is to create a dialogue about the cultural importance of the structure, it will draft a nomination. The deadline for that application is soon, said Amy Guthrie, Aspen’s historic preservation officer.

“The most important thing right now is to initiate the discussion,” Guthrie said.

She said it will probably take about a week of wading through all the red tape before that discussion begins.

The reasons the HPC said CU should reconsider the deal included its status as a structure designed and built by a world-renown architect and the fact that it was a gift to CU in 1970 by prominent local community advocate and expansionist Elizabeth Paepcke.

If the application is successful and the building gets listed with the national register, CU will still technically own it and have the right to do whatever it wants.

Guthrie said the HPC hopes the initiative will convince the university to keep the building.

Dan Meyers, the medical school’s chief spokesman, said Wednesday that the school is “getting close” to finalizing a deal with a potential buyer who offered a little less than $20 million for the property.

Meyers couldn’t give a date for the sale or provide any more detail because of private nature of the negotiation, but he did say several other people have expressed interest in acquiring the land.

Lately, the building, which has served a venue for academic lectures and conferences, has been a drain on the university, netting between $150,000 and $200,000 in operating expenses from CU every year.

Meyers said CU didn’t know about the HPC discussion, which City Hall spokeswoman Sally Spaulding said was scheduled at the “last minute,” until just before it happened.

“Just now we were told about meeting,” he said. “We’re in Denver; we couldn’t be there.”

CU’s local representative, planner Alan Richman, attended the meeting, but declined to comment in the public discussion section because of the short notice. CU officials, including medical school dean Richard Krugman, will be at the next HPC hearing on the issue on July 14.

The meeting was called after City Council discussed the matter with lawyers in private Monday.

Jay Maytin, who sits on the commission, said the organization should take this as an opportunity to look ahead to similar sales of buildings in the future.

“A catalyst for this has been the demolition. But I’d like to be proactive about other structures in town,” he said.

HPC member Michael Kraftman recused himself from the discussion because he works for a local law firm that is involved in brokering the deal.

ahedge@aspentimes.com


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