Council hopes to decide fate of former Aspen Art Museum building by March |

Council hopes to decide fate of former Aspen Art Museum building by March

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council expects to have a decision by March 17 on the next occupant of the riverside space the Aspen Art Museum is currently vacating, officials said Monday.

Five concepts — the Aspen Science Center, the Red Brick’s Powerhouse Performance and Event Center, GrassRoots TV’s Aspen Media Powerhouse, the Aspen Brewing Co. and Paul Kienast’s Gathering Place — made the list of final candidates for the 7,200-square-foot Mill Street building, a city-owned property needing about $1 million in repairs.

The city is expected to solicit proposals Jan. 12, and submissions will be due by the end of February. The council will score applications based on three major categories: proposed uses, financial backing and community interest. Also included in the council’s weighted scoring are two minor categories: identity of the applicant and what sets its concept apart from the others.

The selection process is expected to last between two and three work sessions, as each applicant will be allowed a 60- to 90-minute presentation before the council. Council Dwayne Romero pointed out that the decision will not be based solely on point scoring but on qualitative data during presentations as well. Following the final work session, the council will select one candidate who will then negotiate terms with the city.

At one point, Romero said officials may want to reconsider making the property available for municipal uses. Citing an article that ran Monday in The Aspen Times, he said the city is at a “critical juncture” as it weighs between 50,000 and 65,000 square feet of office-space needs.

“I realize that 7,000 square feet is not going to knock that big of a dent into it, but don’t we have some sort of obligation to measure needs versus wants?” Romero said. “It feels like a critical juncture, this growing consensus about growth buildout, development, scale, mass.”

Officials, however, opted not to consider any municipal uses for the building.

Red Brick Executive Director Angie Callen questioned the nearly seven-week turnaround for applicants submitting a proposal. She claimed that when it was her full-time job to write and respond to proposals, she never had a deadline shorter than eight weeks.

After a contentious exchange between Callen and Councilman Adam Frisch over the value of the written proposals, given the importance of the presentations, Mayor Steve Skadron firmly stated his suggested application deadlines. Romero said he wants a good, quality decision and the mayor seemed to be speaking “in the spirit of haste.”

“There will be adequate time to make a quality decision,” Skadron said.

Another issue that arose is the prospect of a for-profit business like Aspen Brewing Co. moving in. Currently, the Art Museum pays $1 a year for the space. Frisch said that if the council goes with the brewery, the city will need to charge free-market rent.

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