‘Little Snell’ project in Basalt embraces historic preservation
The owner of one of Basalt’s historic downtown buildings says she overcame a knee-jerk response to tough new development guidelines and embraced the rules as a chance to create something special.Candace Resnick recently submitted the first application for development of a property designated as a historic landmark by the town. Resnick’s plan would preserve the 925-square-foot building where Java Joe’s is located, across from Basalt Town Hall, and add about an 11,500-square-foot building behind it.”I don’t necessarily feel you have to tear things down to do something new,” said Resnick.The Town Council approved regulations last year to preserve 11 historic structures and three ruins that are at least 75 years old. Most of the buildings, like Resnick’s, are on Midland Avenue, the town’s main street.The town devised regulations that offer “carrots” for preserving historic structures when property is redeveloped. Parking regulations are eased, and some fees are waived to offset the added expenses of preserving historic structures.Despite the carrot approach, the historic-preservation guidelines were met with some opposition last year. Resnick said she was warned that it would make it much tougher for her to sell or develop her property.”For a moment in time, I fell in that panic mode,” she said.But the artist in her won out. Resnick said she eventually began to see the possibilities rather than the pitfalls of historic preservation. She said she always loved the little brick building on the property she has owned for seven years. In addition, Resnick likes the challenge of remodeling.”I feel like I can take any sow’s ear and turn it into a silk purse,” she said.To accomplish that, she is proposing to build a structure into the hillside behind the historic structure. The three-story structure would provide about 2,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, about 2,500 square feet of office space on the second floor and nearly 2,800 square feet of residential space on the top floor.Unlike some historic-preservation efforts in Aspen, in which nothing more than a building’s facade is saved, Resnick’s project would preserve the entire original structure.Resnick hopes to break ground this spring and complete the structure by December 2002.The tentative name for her project, The Little Snell, combines history with wit.Her research indicates the building was constructed in 1898 by Frank Snell, an employee of the Colorado Midland Railroad.”Previously that year, a raging fire had consumed his residence along with most of the west end of Basalt and, being a practical man, he chose to rebuild with non-combustible materials,” Resnick wrote in her application.The brick structure was purchased in 1913 by Prue and Jesse Ray Bogue, who raised their family there. The home stayed in their family into the 1980s.Resnick purchased it in 1994. “The Little Snell” honors the builder while playing off the name made famous in Aspen.”As the years have gone by, I have been more and more pleased with my decision not to demolish the building,” Resnick wrote. “The feedback I have received from the town has reinforced my original determination to resist the pressure to view the building only for its `tear down’ potential.”Resnick said she worked extensively with the town planning staff prior to submitting her application in hopes that she wouldn’t have to go back to the drawing board.Her plan received a favorable first look from the Basalt planning commission last week, although no formal vote was taken. After an advisory vote from the P&Z, the Town Council will make a final ruling.