Basalt river center wins conceptual nod |

Basalt river center wins conceptual nod

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

BASALT – The Roaring Fork Conservancy’s planned river center won conceptual approval Tuesday from the Basalt Town Council with a couple of conditions, but the action means the council is OK with the facility’s 8,432-square-foot size.

The council voted 6-0 to give its conceptual blessing to the project, but four members continued to voice concerns about some aspects of architect Harry Teague’s proposed design after visiting the site – on Two Rivers Road between the Taqueria el Nopal building and Old Pond Park.

The building’s setback from its western lot line, bordering the pond, was insufficient for a majority of the council. Most also took issue with the facade on the west wing – a front wall that some council members panned as uninviting.

“I think the point that has been brought up repeatedly is that long wall cuts people off,” said Councilwoman Anne Freedman, who rallied to attend the council meeting after collapsing during the site visit, possibly because of the heat. She was treated by an ambulance crew, but was not transported.

“The building creates somewhat of a barrier,” agreed Councilman Pete McBride, who urged changes to the wall and improved visual access to the pond as people approach the site from town. “I would love to see the building a little more inviting in the front,” he added later.

The center’s front facade invites people in at the entrance, said Teague, calling it a “kind of peak-a-boo experience.” The center would open up as a visitor steps through the entrance, he said.

McBride urged “maybe one more peak-a-boo” in the second-phase west wing.

Councilman Jacque Whitsitt objected to the building’s close proximity to the lot line near the pond and called for more room along the back of the building, closest to the Roaring Fork River, as well. Other council members didn’t echo the latter concern.

Pulling in the setbacks but still maintaining the size of the building will be difficult, Teague said, though council members voiced no qualms about expanding the portion of the building that has a second floor.

The building’s height, at its tallest, matches the false front on the Taqueria building next door.

Several citizens voiced support for the center during a public hearing, and the council did not disagree.

“We’re not against the river center at all, we just think it could be made a little better,” Freedman said.

Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer also advocated tweaking the west wing facade and increasing the setback next to the pond; Councilwoman Karin Teague recused herself from discussions and voting on the project because her husband is the architect.

Mayor Leroy Duroux and Councilman Glenn Rappaport both supported the design as presented.

“I don’t feel that I’m expert enough to say that building doesn’t invite me in from the road,” Duroux said, adding that he finds the town’s new library unattractive from the exterior, but inviting once one enters.

Conservancy representatives were anxious to earn conceptual approval so they can begin raising funds to build the river center, which will include an exhibition hall, education center and office space. It will house interactive exhibits on topics ranging from supply and demand of river water to the importance of riparian habitat.

The planned first phase of the three-phase project measures 4,283 square feet.

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