Group wants arts center at fire station |

Group wants arts center at fire station

M. John FayheeSpecial to The Aspen Times

A group has proposed developing the Isis Theater and Aspen fire station into a new downtown arts center, but the plan would move the fire station to a site the fire chief considers unacceptable.The Isis Group issued a news release on Monday disclosing its desire not only to purchase the fire station site so it can expand the Isis Theater into a community arts center, but also build a new fire station on the town-owned parcel known as the Zupancis property on Main Street.According to Isis Group managing member Michael Tierney, who used to own the Incline Ski Shop, the group has been looking at the Isis Theater since last fall.”We had it under contract, then it fell out of contract, then we got it under contract again,” Tierney said Monday from his Basalt home. “We plan to close on the Isis property the first of May.”Tierney, who would not disclose the sale price of the Isis, said the sale was not contingent on the acquisition of the fire station property.The news release said the first phase of the group’s proposal involves acquiring or leasing the Zupancis property from the city and building the following structures on the site: A new fire station that fully meets the fire department’s requirements, paid for by the Isis Group. New employee housing (between 20 and 40 beds). New office space for the city or county. An underground parking structure of approximately 100 spaces, with dedicated space for the fire station, city, county and public.The second phase of the proposal involves acquiring the fire station property from the city and developing the property into a new Aspen Arts Center.The arts center, according to Tierney, would include a six-screen cinema with state-of-the-art technology on the lower level. One of those theaters would seat 350 people and could be Theater Aspen’s new, permanent home.The second phase would also include retail and office space on the street level, second-floor space available as offices and/or classrooms for groups such as the city of Aspen, Theater Aspen, Aspen Filmfest, Aspen School District or as an Aspen Art Museum annex.Tierney said the third floor would consist of free-market condominiums.”We have a unique and very exciting opportunity to positively change the character of downtown Aspen,” Tierney said. “The centerpiece of our proposal, the Aspen Arts Center, is an idea that has been discussed for years but now has the opportunity to become a reality, to the entire community’s benefit.”The proposal comes less than two months before the fire district’s $14 million bond election. If that passes, the funds would pay for a new substation across from the airport and renovations to the existing downtown fire station, which has housed the fire department since 1961.Fire Chief Darryl Grob said he’s exasperated about the whole deal.”It’s certainly awkward timing,” he said Monday.Grob has been working on the May 2 bond election for three years. Last week, Grob said he has examined the possibility of locating the downtown fire station in the midst of a government campus. But he concluded it’s best that the department has its own stand-alone facility.”There are access issues that are unique to a fire station’s needs,” he said last week.In e-mails to Grob, the Isis Group proposed an 18,000-square-foot fire station at the Zupancis property along with 28,000 square feet of office space for Pitkin County behind the new fire station.One of the e-mails says the Isis Group would receive the right to acquire the Zupancis property “at a fair price and develop it as described above.” It would also have the right to acquire the existing fire station property “at a fair price”; the right to “mitigate all Isis Theater building employee housing on the Zupancis property; the right to lease to the city and county, on a long-term basis, all newly built office space at favorable lease rates to the tenants; and the right to sell employee housing built on the Zupancis property at prices consistent with city policy or formulas for such category housing sales.”Grob responded on Feb. 8 by pointing out all the planning work that had gone into the proposal for a new fire station on Hopkins. He did say, however, “In the interest of due diligence, we would be irresponsible if we did not give your program an opportunity to be explored.”On Feb. 14, the group responded with a more detailed proposal.Grob responded on Feb. 14 by writing, “Many of your … suggestions reflect an incomplete and inaccurate interpretation of our program planning, operational requirements and strategic vision objectives. We consider your cost estimates understated and your development programs problematic. Your offer is rejected. We will be proceeding as we and the community have planned.”According to Tierney, the Isis Group has retained local architect Charles Cunniffe to work on the project.

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