Graffiti cleanup at Emma Store will require care | AspenTimes.com

Graffiti cleanup at Emma Store will require care

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesPitkin County officials are still exploring the best way to remove graffiti from the historic Emma Store building. The structure was defaced last week.
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EMMA – Cleaning graffiti off the historic Emma Store could wind up costing $2,000 or so, according to a Pitkin County Open Space and Trails official, though a strategy to deal with the spray paint remained up in the air Monday.

Gary Tennenbaum, open space and trails land steward, was seeking advice from professionals, including the contractors who worked on restoration of the building, on how to remove the paint without damaging the sensitive, century-old bricks.

“I don’t want to rush into it and find out what we’re doing is wrong,” he said.

The paint job was discovered Friday morning. A vandal or vandals apparently tagged the west wall of the building Thursday night. The interior walls of a nearby pedestrian underpass beneath Highway 82 also were painted extensively.

Though the Colorado Department of Transportation owns the underpass, the county helps maintain it – sweeping it out, for example – and Tennenbaum is seeking cost estimates and products to deal with the paint in both places. The tunnel, depending on what sort of paint CDOT used on the walls initially, could be relatively easy to deal with, he said.

The faded red bricks of the Emma Store, however, date back to 1898. Their cleanup, potentially involving chemicals to remove solvent-based paint, plus water, is worrisome. Water will seep into the bricks and freeze, subjecting them to cracking, Tennenbaum said.

Blasting the fragile bricks to clean off the paint isn’t considered an option, he said.

Tennenbaum said he has received a quote for an environmentally friendly product. It would cost $725 for the chemicals and shipping. Labor, even if Open Space and Trails handles it in-house, would bring graffiti cleanup to about $2,000, he estimated.

“It’s going to cost a decent amount of money no matter what,” he said.

County officials had hoped to get the paint removed quickly. Tennenbaum said he may cover the graffiti with a tarp until work can begin.

He also is seeking quotes from an electrician to install a light mounted on a pole on that side of the building, as the light can’t be affixed to the historic structure itself. He is also considering a mounted camera.

With the building’s west face lighted at night, Tennenbaum said he hopes any future attempts at vandalism would be spotted by motorists on Highway 82 and quickly reported.

“No one wants to continue to see this happen,” he said. “It’s just really sad.”

The Open Space and Trails program has put up a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in last week’s vandalism, but no one has stepped forward yet, Tennenbaum said Monday morning. The incident remains under investigation, said Deputy Bruce Benjamin, of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

The latest incident is the second time someone has defaced the store building since it was restored. In October, a poster was glued to the same west face. The poster was successfully removed.

The county Open Space and Trails program acquired the Emma Store site, including several historic buildings on 12.5 acres, in 2008. The store, which is actually two side-by-side buildings, was in danger of collapse before its restoration last year. A new weight-bearing structure was constructed inside the buildings, taking the weight of a new roof off the aging brick walls. The old roof had partially caved in, taking parts of the walls with it.

In all, the county spent more than $600,000 shoring up and then restoring the store building. The sum included nearly $244,000 in state grant money.

The Open Space and Trails Board of Trustees plans to discuss the future of the Emma buildings this year. When the property was acquired, the goal was either to save the store building and then resell the structures or convert them to offices for the open space program – a use that would require a rezoning of the site.

janet@aspentimes.com


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