Aspen seeks more time for Given
August 9, 2010
ASPEN – City staff on Monday will ask the Aspen City Council to extend negotiations to convince the University of Colorado’s medical school not to move forward with plans to demolish the Given Institute.
The city drafted a memorandum of understanding calling for the university to wait for a vote on a potential November ballot item that would allow the city to buy the property, but CU officials have not signed the document.
At the end of May, university officials announced they intend to sell the land, saying CU’s dire fiscal situation means it can no longer afford to operate the facility. Officials cited an annual net loss of up to $200,000 to operate the Given.
University officials have said the potential unnamed buyer is offering $17 million for the land, but isn’t interested in the property unless it is free of the existing buildings.
The Aspen Historic Preservation Commission late last month formed a grass-roots group of residents who have a stake in the matter; the goal is to gather support to save the building and convince voters that it is an essential community benefit.
It would be a tough sell on the ballot if the city has to pay the full $17 million, members said at their first meeting July 29.
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“I think the bigger thing about it … is it’s a losing proposition,” said Sarah Broughton, vice chair of the HPC.
The preservation commission plans to partner financially with public and private entities, including The Aspen Institute and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, in exchange for services.
Broughton said ACES has indicated that it also will support the initiative.
The late Aspen philanthropist Elizabeth Paepcke donated the Given property, which overlooks Hallam Lake at ACES, to the university about 40 years ago, and since, it has been used as a venue for medical forums in accordance with Paepcke’s wishes. John Katzenberger, the director of the Aspen Global Change Institute, said turning the property into a residence would dishonor those wishes.
“It would be a violation of the intent of the gift,” he said.