Most finalists agree: One anchor tenant best for power house |

Most finalists agree: One anchor tenant best for power house

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Though all five finalists vying for the Old Power House are open to some level of collaboration at the soon-to-be-vacant riverside building, four are of the opinion that one anchor tenant managing the property is the most ideal outcome.

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 that the Aspen Art Museum is currently vacating.

Last week, Mayor Steve Skadron said the winning proposal will most likely find a balance between a laser focus and collaboration. Councilman Adam Frisch said he won’t be looking for a concept that appeals to the entire community but one that will contribute something focused and unique.

Representatives for all five concepts have had passing conversations with one another about potential collaboration, but it was clear through interviews Tuesday that all but Kienast believe one anchor tenant is the best route.

“Anything is possible, but having two organizations in charge of one space strikes me as difficult,” said Mike Simmons, board chairman for the Aspen Science Center. “I think all of us have ideas that would use the whole space and use it productively.”

He added that the organization’s plans call for shared programming space, and he has been in talks with the Aspen Music Festival and School about an educational effort combining science and music. Red Brick Executive Director Angie Callen made similar comments Tuesday, saying her organization revolves around collaboration, with a list of about 40 organizations that have interest in working with the Red Brick.

“We’re always open to other collaborations that may make our proposal more appealing,” she said.

The challenge in having two or more tenants, she said, is establishing a mutually beneficial environment. Through conversations with other applicants, she’s found there’s agreement that such a scenario isn’t possible.

Kienast, who is pushing his Gathering Place as a traditional community center with modern ideas about human interaction, said his initial concept was to include the entire community, with movie nights, dancing, a cafe, spiritual rituals, weddings and other social events.

“My proposal was, how do we make a place where all these groups can operate,” he said.

Like Callen, GrassRoots TV executive director John Masters said his organization is driven by collaboration, citing 125 nonprofits and agencies that work with the television station. His concept fills the gap for small groups looking for performance and presentation space, where it can be recorded and distributed. He said groups between 20 and 30 people have options in town, but anything between 30 and 150 people doesn’t have a venue readily available.

“Someone needs to be responsible for that facility, that building and the grounds,” Masters said. “As soon as you get more than one group or organization responsible for it, you’re asking for potential conflict.”

He said the city could always consider dividing the building with separate entrances, but that, he said, reduces the value of the space considerably.

Duncan Clauss, owner of Aspen Brewing Co., said that he has had passing conversations with both Simmons and Callen. But ultimately, his vision is for the brewery to manage the ground-level space, while a separate entity would manage a collaborative workspace upstairs. The ground level also would feature an Aspen 82 television studio, broadcasting community events hosted by the brewery.

“We can host a huge variety of events, from theater performances to science fairs to Food & Wine events to weddings to community barbecues on the Fourth of July,” Clauss said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to put together what I think is going to be an incredible proposal for the city.”

Assistant City Manager Barry Crook said the Aspen City Council plans to make a final decision before the next group of elected officials is sworn in following May’s election. The council is expected to discuss the voting process at a Jan. 5 work session. Copies of the applicants’ initial proposals are available at

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