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Aspen synagogue construction set to begin

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Construction on the long-awaited Chabad Jewish Community Center of Aspen is likely to start in three to four weeks, Rabbi Mendel Mintz said Sunday.

Mintz, members of the local Jewish community and other well-wishers gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday afternoon at the project site, the corner of Main and Fourth streets, where the synagogue’s temporary facility now stands.

“Ecstatic is an understatement,” Mintz said. “This represents more than seven years of hard work and efforts of so many people who made this dream a reality. Days like this don’t happen very often, and I’ll remember this forever. I feel so honored and humbled to be here this day.”

The new building will cover around 16,000 square feet of floor space on three levels: below-grade, ground floor and second story. The project will take about 18 months, Mintz said.

In 2006, the Aspen City Council approved initial project plans that called for a 34,000-square-foot community center costing between $16 million and $17 million and taking up half a city block. Since then, the project has been delayed and scaled back, largely because of economic reasons, Mintz said.

“The delay was partly related to the recession and also because our plans evolved and changed a bit,” Mintz said. “Thankfully we didn’t start construction (in the spring of 2008 as planned) because we would have been in some trouble. Now we’re in a position of financial strength and really excited going forward.”

Mintz said changes to the design were largely a matter of consolidation.

“We wanted to maximize our spaces and make sure that we value every dollar donated to this project,” he said. “Instead of having separate rooms for things that may have light use, we combined those with other spaces so that we could maximize their use and at the same time be more green and responsible economically to the community and to the organization.”

The Main Street property for the new building lies between Third and Fourth streets and was bought in 2003 for $6.3 million. It’s the site of the temporary center and the L’Auberge d’Aspen Lodge cabins. Most of the cabins will be removed and relocated, Mintz said.

“We’re in the process of trying to move them,” he said. “We’re working with nonprofits to move them to a camp. If that doesn’t work out, there are many members of the community that have requested that we do anything we can to put them to good use. The last option is to demolish them.”

In addition to the $6.3 million price for the land, the organization paid slightly less than $1 million for costs associated with the city approval process, Mintz said. It has raised $5 million from donors in the past few years and has a goal of raising another $4 million to cover remaining construction costs and to set up an endowment for programs and operations.

“It’s really exciting to be in this strong financial position instead of being concerned about how to pay for construction,” Mintz said.

He added that the building’s ground floor will include a preschool, meeting spaces, Hebrew school classrooms and spaces for a range of adult and youth activities. The second floor will have a sanctuary, a lecture hall and a ballroom for weddings, bar mitzvahs and birthday celebrations.

The lowest level will house a game room for teens, more meeting spaces, a library and a mikveh, a bath used for ritual purposes.

Chabad Jewish Community Center is separate from the Aspen Jewish Congregation, which meets at the Aspen Chapel on Meadowood Drive.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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