Potential buyers of Given not sold on tearing down Aspen landmark

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Ongoing negotiations between the University of Colorado’s medical school and possible buyers for the Given Institute in Aspen have not ruled out the possibility of keeping the buildings intact.

The two potential suitors have indicated the deal does not hinge on them being allowed to tear down the Aspen landmark, said CU spokesman Dan Meyers.

But selling the property is becoming more difficult for the university because the city of Aspen has been trying to find a way around demolishing the Given, he said.

CU may have lost some of its bargaining chips last week after the Aspen City Council introduced an emergency measure that, if approved, would rezone the property to allow only educational endeavors; a buyer could not build a home on the lot.

“This is like getting to a false summit on a mountain hike,” Meyers said.

The measure will be voted on formally on Monday. If it passes, it will take effect within 24 hours, instead of the normal 30 days.

Emergency legislation is normally not allowed unless it addresses an issue of public safety, health or peace, per the city’s charter. The city’s special counsel, Jim True, said Aspen does not often use emergency legislation, but that it is frequently used in other municipalities.

Councilman Derek Johnson said Monday night that he was not necessarily ready to support the measure.

During a last-minute meeting Sept. 8, Mayor Mick Ireland announced the emergency measure and said it would provide the city with a high ground in negotiations.

The university has been trying to sell the facility since May, saying that it poses a financial burden of up to $200,000 a year – costs that are untenable because of quickly diminishing state funds for higher education.

City officials and some residents have been trying to save the buildings since CU announced that it wanted to sell the property.

The university had come close to a deal with a buyer who only wanted the land if the buildings were not on it.

The City Council announced that it wanted to ask voters permission to buy the property in the upcoming November election, and the buyer backed out of the deal, Meyers said.

City officials have since been trying to establish a partnership with local arts community entities that might be able to front some of the cash to buy the building in exchange for being able to use it.

The City Council voted against putting a question on the Nov. 2 ballot asking to buy the Given for $15 million ballot because, they said, that price was too high.

That figure was down $2 million from the $17 million price CU had said the original buyer had offered to pay.

The City Council went into executive session about the Given Institute on Monday night after its regularly scheduled session.

The Given Institute property was allocated to CU’s medical school to be used for educational seminars by Aspen philanthropist Elizabeth Paepcke nearly four decades ago.


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