City mulls uses for building if Youth Center moves |

City mulls uses for building if Youth Center moves

Sarah S. Chung

The Aspen Youth Center likely would be turned into office space if the Center vacates its Rio Grande building and relocates to Iselin Park.

A selling price has not been determined, but the city is poised to buy the building if the youth center decides to move. The city already owns the land underneath the building and both City Council and the youth center board of directors agree “it’s appropriate to move.”

If the deal goes through, the next question would be who or what will move into this prime Aspen real estate located right next to the Rio Grande parking garage?

“We haven’t ruled anything out, but I suspect we’ll rent it out to generate some income,” said Aspen City Councilman Tom McCabe.

At this point there are no plans to kick out the building’s only tenet, The Aspen Underground, a popular eatery occupying the first floor. In fact “the first choice would be to keep the Underground where it is,” said city asset manager Ed Sadler.

According to Sadler the building itself is in “pretty good shape.” And while some remodeling would be necessary to convert the large open spaces on the upper floors to other uses, offices would be the most logical choice.

Even before the final paperwork is signed on the sale, the city has fielded calls from the Pitkin County, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, and its own departments interested in expanding their operations.

But no one in the city is eager to commit the space before the public has its say.

A civic center master plan of the area has been in the planning stage for months, although meetings have yet to be held. The plan, however, should have its “vision” for the area wrapped up by fall. And it’s unlikely, remarked City Manager Steve Barwick, that the city will designate the building’s future occupants before then.

Since a new facility has to be built before the youth center moves out, it could be three years before a decision has to be made, Sadler noted.

But city officials have already anticipated a call to consider employee housing on the site.

“I don’t think the structure lends itself to housing and to knock it down and rebuild would be cost prohibitive,” said Councilman Tony Hershey. “But I’m willing to listen to creative ideas.”

Sadler corroborated that the building would have to be overhauled if not torn down to accommodate apartments on site. He estimated that it would take at least $500,000 to remodel for housing.

Housing board members, while noting the “great infill location” of the building, concede other nearby locations might be a better fit.

“I can see the whole area becoming a lively urban landscape,” said housing board chairwoman Jackie Kasabach. “But rather than retrofitting the youth center for housing I think one way or another both housing and office space will find its niche down there.”

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