City Hall looks to save Aspen buildings
ASPEN The buildings are coming down fast in Aspen, and city officials want to delay or prevent demolition of many of them to determine if they have any historic value and are worth saving.That means any developer who is considering knocking down a building that was built in the post-World War II era could fall under the review of Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission and the City Council.Amy Guthrie, City Hall’s historic preservation officer, asked the City Council on Monday for $22,500 to hire a consultant to survey all of Aspen’s post-World War II era properties, specifically those that were part of shaping the ski resort and the Aspen Institute, where the work of several noted international architects can be found.”We see buildings demolished at a very fast rate and we are very worried about that,” Guthrie said, adding city staff has surveyed potentially historic buildings since 2000 but there are many more to add to the list. And the demolition permits are coming in faster than city staff can handle.”There is no reason to believe that only Aspen’s Victorian residents produced places worth saving,” stated a June 29 memo to the City Council. “Both the 19th Century mining era and post World War II occurrences, such as the development of the skiing industry and the Aspen Idea, have had a profound influence on this community.”The City Council authorized paying the consultant, as well as $40,000 to create a DVD in the name of public outreach that would track important buildings, their architecture and focus on Aspen’s history in context.The City Council also directed staff to draft an ordinance similar to those in Denver and Boulder, which delay demolition permits if buildings were constructed during a specific time period. Such buildings are automatically reviewed against a set of established criteria and city staff makes the decision on whether the building can come down.”It allows us to deal with it on a case-by-case basis instead of addressing 2,000 buildings,” Guthrie said.Once the consultant establishes a comprehensive list of all buildings that could be listed as historic, an ordinance will be created to include the younger structures.All of the council members support the effort, saying development pressures in Aspen make it an important issue.”History didn’t end one afternoon in 1903,” Councilman Jack Johnson said.Mayor Mick Ireland said it’s important that property owners understand why their buildings could be historically designated – and not just because they pulled a building permit.Chris Bendon, Aspen’s community development director, said Guthrie and her staff often find themselves in Catch-22 situations when citizens call to ask if a building is historic and then the question arises of whether or not it should be.”It’s kind of a ‘gotcha,'” Bendon said, adding it’s important to let the public know that it’s not intentional.”Staff fields questions on a daily basis that indicate threats to the continued existence of remaining buildings constructed during the early ski era,” the memo to council said. “This week alone, three post-war era buildings with significance that should have been evaluated further, were demolished.”Until recently, preserving Aspen’s history has been focused on buildings from the mining era and more specifically, Victorian structures. Only 22 buildings from Aspen’s last 113 years of history are currently landmarked. From Aspen’s first 13 years of history, there are 257 protected buildings.
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