Aspen’s Moore parcel generating interest

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Apparently the only thing that’s certain regarding a 45-acre piece of prime real estate near the Aspen Recreation Center is that plenty of parties are interested in acquiring it, for various reasons.

The city of Aspen this week withdrew City Council consideration of an ordinance authorizing nearly $6 million in open space bonds, some of which was apparently slated for the property. One source, who asked not to be identified, put the price the city was prepared to offer at $11 million – a sum that apparently included Pitkin County participation, if not other players.

Meanwhile, the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation remains “in the dark” about what’s going on with the parcel, where it hoped to secure acreage for a continuing-care retirement center, said Kris Marsh, the foundation’s executive director.

Aspen Country Day School, which currently leases space at the Aspen Music Festival and School campus for its operations, is also interested in the property, confirmed Carolyn Hines, director of communications for the school.

“It would be an ideal site for a school. If it were to become available, we would love to have a chance to consider it,” she said.

The school hasn’t made an offer for the parcel, owned by the Moore family, but has expressed interest, Hines said.

The potential for a purchase that accommodates both a school and the retirement complex has also been floated, she said.

Whatever happens there, however, is up to the Moore family, Hines stressed.

“This is their family property,” she said.

Tom Moore did not return a phone call on Monday.

The Aspen Area Community Plan currently identifies the property, located north of the Aspen Recreation Center and west of the existing Moore Open Space, off Maroon Creek Road, for a mixed use of open space and housing, according to Cindy Houben, director of the county’s Community Development Department.

The county, though it recently announced it will put $10 million toward a joint purchase of 742 acres of open space outside of Snowmass Village – land owned by the Droste family – has the ability to participate in both purchases if county commissioners want to, according to Dale Will, Open Space and Trails Program director.

The community plan’s mixed-use vision for the parcel, however, presents something of a hurdle, he said.

“It puts opens space against the community plan – that’s a very awkward place to be,” Will said.

Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said he’d consider a mixed use the best use of the property, followed by open space. Development of a single-family home there would be the least desirable outcome, he believes.

“The need for the senior thing is real,” he added.

Marsh said no other suitable property has been identified for the continuing-care facility, which proponents would like to see include 60 units where seniors could live independently, 40 assisted-living units and 20 units for residents who need nursing care, similar to what a nursing home provides.

Facilities for the local, aging populace are lacking, prompting the push for such a facility.

Marsh was hopeful a partnership of the city, county, Aspen Valley Hospital and the medical foundation could acquire the parcel in a way that carved out space for the continuing-care facility.

“We were awfully simplistic, I think, in our hopes,” she said. “I wish we had as many millions as it costs to buy the whole thing, but we don’t. It’s kind of frustrating.”

Whatever occurs next, Ireland summarized the city’s current intentions on one front: “At this time, we don’t foresee making an open space purchase of great magnitude.”