Aspen Power Plant proposal gains Aspen City Council support |

Aspen Power Plant proposal gains Aspen City Council support

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
This image rendering show's the Aspen Power Plant as proposed. Aspen City Council gave its support Monday for the applicant to begin negotiations for the city-owned space.

After more than two years, the city of Aspen’s search for the next Old Power House occupant may have ended Monday, with the Aspen City Council’s decision to begin negotiations with the creators behind the Aspen Power Plant proposal.

Led by the Aspen Brewing Co. and Aspen 82, the proposal beat out four others: the Aspen Science Center, the Red Brick, GrassRoots TV and resident Paul Kienast. If negotiations are successful, the applicant will repurpose the 7,200-square-foot Mill Street space with a biergarten, restaurant, TV studio and event space on the ground floor and incubator workspace above.

Council members Ann Mullins, Art Daily and Dwayne Romero all gave their support to the Power Plant proposal. Mayor Steve Skadron said he had “one foot” in support of the Power Plant and “the other foot” in support of the Red Brick’s Powerhouse Performance and Event Center.

“The vitality that this combination of uses promotes is significant,” Daily said. “This 60-space (incubator area) is going to be gradually and eventually filled with local entrepreneurs from dawn till dark. This is going to be a busy building.”

The first two proposals struck from the conversation were Kienast’s Gathering Place and GrassRoots TV’s Media Powerhouse. Skadron said that while he supports the spirit behind Kienast’s community-center proposal, it wasn’t defined enough, to which multiple council members agreed. Skadron said that while the community is indebted to GrassRoots, he wasn’t convinced the space was needed for its proposed media use.

One major detail that the city still needs to figure out is what the Power Plant would mean for the rest of the private sector. Councilman Adam Frisch noted that there undoubtedly will be some complaints about a for-profit moving into a subsidized space. What’s unclear is whether the city will be required to open the space up to other bids from the private sector before pulling the trigger with the brew pub. City Attorney Jim True said he will have to review the original request for proposals that the city submitted.

Officials have said 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. Aspen Brewing Co. owner Duncan Clauss has said his business is preparing as if it would be on the hook for about $1.7 million in buildout.

Based on five-year projections, organizers anticipate about $83,000 a year in net income from the upstairs workspace, money that Aspen 82 co-owner David Cook has 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, according to the proposal.

Frisch suggested a co-habitation between the incubator upstairs and the Aspen Science Center below. Romero responded that tinkering with multiple proposals might lessen the impact of one anchor tenant. Mullins said it appeared early on that applicants favored one anchor tenant over co-habitation, and that it isn’t the city’s place to force two together.

Early on, Skadron raised concerns about the Aspen Science Center’s financial model. Though the organization claimed to have raised about $1 million in just over a month for the project, Skadron said there’s a difference between having an endowment and cash in the bank. It was on this point that Skadron praised the Red Brick, as it has exhibited financial stability for years.

Skadron appeared to favor the Red Brick late in the hearing after weighing community access against the Power Plant. Cook said a zero-fee structure has been built into the proposal that would allow public groups to utilize the space. What time of day, what time of year and how many hours it will be available are details Crook is expected to work through with the applicant in the coming weeks.

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