Final candidates for old museum space change | AspenTimes.com

Final candidates for old museum space change

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council dropped a John Denver memorial concept from its list of finalists for the old Aspen Art Museum building Tuesday, while adding two proposals for a brewery and a community center.

There are now five finalists, with the Aspen Science Center, Red Brick's Powerhouse Performance and Event Center and GrassRoots TV's Aspen Media Powerhouse rounding out the list. Councilman Adam Frisch said the John Denver concept offers the least appeal to locals and tourists.

"I have all of his albums. I'm a huge fan," Frisch said, noting that the city has already honored his memory.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins agreed, saying the city doesn't need to dedicate a facility to his name. John Denver representatives did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

Mayor Steve Skadron championed the two additions, asking Aspen Brewing Co. owner Duncan Clauss for more detail on his brewery concept. The mayor said he witnessed the success of Clauss partnering with the Aspen Art Museum in its old space during Fourth of July, which saw "a great cross-section of Aspen" attend.

Clauss said he is confident he can recreate the experience in the lower level of the 7,200-square-foot, riverside space on Mill Street. Plans also include incubator space in the upper level of the building that would cater to start-up businesses. Clauss said he would be asking fair-market rental rates for the brewery and restaurant operation, while the cooperative workspace upstairs would require subsidy.

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Skadron also queried Paul Kienast, who proposed the Gathering Place, a spiritual meeting facility geared toward meditation, yoga and other group therapy offerings. Panel members tasked with reviewing 15 proposals for the old art museum space called Kienast's concept compelling but agreed it has weaknesses, such as questionable financial structure.

Skadron described the concept as a "basket of ideas" and praised its aim at broad community appeal. He said the application — which the panel rated as a runner-up in its list that included the John Denver, Red Brick, science center and Grassroots concepts — should be considered further.

Made up of residents Robin Hamill, Kathryn Koch and Catherine Lutz, and city employees Chris Bendon, Barry Crook and Jeff Woods, the panel suggested that none of the concepts offer broad community appeal and applicants should consider partnerships. Frisch took issue with this, saying "all things to all people all the time leads to failure."

"I want something that's focused," he said. "Aspen is a mosaic. There's a lot of great little tiles, a lot of medium-sized tiles and a lot of large tiles. All those tiles, when they get thrown down on the floor, make a beautiful mosaic. I'm not looking for this to be more than a small to medium-sized mosaic."

In describing the bidding process that will ensue, Skadron said applicants will be asked to create a "laser focus," while considering collaboration opportunities.

"I think the winning proposal will find some balance between those two," he said.

Applicants also will need to include a comment arguing for or against the inclusion of a food and beverage component in their proposals, which the advisory panel suggested. Whoever moves into the space will be looking a minimum of 10 years of occupancy, as agreed upon by the council.

John Masters, executive director of GrassRoots TV, said his plan is to relocate his entire operation from the Red Brick Building and offer a media center with the technology to record, archive and share community presentations and performances. Louras said the panel sees great collaborative opportunities with the proposal, but it would require significant city subsidy.

Red Brick Director Angie Callen was asked if her performance and event center is redundant considering the organization's current arts offerings. She regarded it as a performance counterpart to the Red Brick, which focuses on visual arts. She also sees opportunity to revitalize the outdoor areas of the property into performance space for groups such as Theatre Aspen, Hudson Reed Ensemble, Aspen Fringe Festival, Theater Masters and Aspen Community Theatre. When asked if the proposal is too narrow in scope, she responded that it's the Red Brick's intention to create a facility open to all, noting she has been approached by Aspen Public Radio, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and other groups about event space.

Mike Simmons, board chairman for the Aspen Science Center, also was questioned about collaboration. He answered that his organization has reached out to Grassroots TV about "interesting ways to collaborate on science."

Also on Tuesday, the council reached an agreement with the Pitkin County Library, which will occupy the riverside space from April through Sept. 15, while it renovates its facility. The library is expected cover the cost of utilities. The Aspen Art Museum is expected to fully vacate the riverside space by Jan. 1.

herk@aspentimes.com