Burning for studio space, Anderson Ranch eyes fire station | AspenTimes.com

Burning for studio space, Anderson Ranch eyes fire station

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Anderson Ranch arts center is hot on the idea of using the neighboring Snowmass fire station as art studios.

But only if it is OK with the Snowmass/Wildcat Fire District.

And only if it makes sense to the Snowmass Village Town Council, which is currently sorting through a multitude of plans and ideas related to the development and redevelopment of Base Village and the Snowmass Center area.

“We’re just out there thinking of options,” said Jim Baker, director of the Anderson Ranch center, which runs a variety of summer arts programs in ceramics, photography, woodworking and other disciplines. “The concept we presented was that there might be some possibility of integrating the firehouse and the town hall. But we feel it would only be a good idea if the fire district benefits from it.”

The concept stems from the fact that Town Hall is searching for a new home.

The town currently leases space in the Snowmass Center, which has proposed a redevelopment with more residential space and less office space, meaning the town may soon have to find a new home.

The town has long eyed a plot of land just up Brush Creek Road from the Snowmass Village Conoco as a potential site for a new town hall. The site is on the hillside just across Kearns Road, the upper entrance into the Center area.

The Anderson Ranch thought is that maybe it makes sense to incorporate a new fire station onto the lower levels of a new town hall.

If the Fire District board agreed to move into new quarters, then the ranch would use the large firetruck bays as studio space for sculpture-making and use the housing that is part of the station for artist housing.

“The firehouse would be a great studio for sculpture because it has big bays, and sculpture tends to need a lot of space,” said Baker. “And the property between the firehouse and the ranch could be a good site for additional housing for us in the summer and others in the winter.”

Baker said the idea was put forward in the spirit of helping the town consider all its options in the wake of the Base Village project, which is causing planning waves to ripple throughout the village.

“It seems like a good time to say, `Hey, here is an option that is a possibility,'” Baker said.

Anderson Ranch has developed about 99 percent of the buildings approved in its current 4.5-acre campus master plan and would like more space to improve the scope of its programs.

From the Fire District’s perspective, it can see the advantages of having its station closer to the growing core of the village, but it feels fortunate to have the station it does.

“The taxpayers have been gracious enough to grant us enough so that we could build 16 affordable housing units for firefighters who typically cover our night shift for us,” said John Mele, assistant fire chief of the Snowmass Fire District. “Any kind of trade or move would have to include this type of housing. The Fire District is open-minded, but we have to make sure that the taxpayers get what they paid for.”

Last week, the Town Council listened to a brief presentation on the concept but explained they only wanted to listen to the idea and not discuss it yet.

And at the same meeting, the owners of the Conoco gas station proposed another use for the conceptual town hall site, which would allow them to stay in their present location.

The conceptual idea to move out the firetrucks and move in the sculptures may remain just that, a concept.

“There are many possibilities,” said Baker. “And there may be many reasons why it is a bad idea.”

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