Prime site in play for some lucky nonprofit(s) at Basalt River Park
Council will determine use of 6,500-square-foot spot once eyed for Art Base
When the Basalt River Park development was going through the town government’s review process a big selling point was providing a future, permanent home for the nonprofit Art Base.
Due to unexpected circumstances — namely a pandemic — the Art Base changed direction and purchased an existing building on Midland Avenue instead. Now the big question is what’s going to happen to the 6,500-squre-foot space eyed for the community arts center in the River Park development.
The Basalt Town Council will start sorting through the possibilities in a work session Feb. 23, according to Mayor Bill Kane.
Basalt River Park faced an uncertain fate when it went through months of review by the Basalt Town Council in 2019 and early 2020. A development group headed by Tim Belinski and Andrew Light pitched a project that combines free market residences, affordable housing units, offices and commercial space.
They sweetened the pot by providing space for a permanent home for the Art Base, which is currently tucked into a 1,800-square-foot spot in the former town library, which is owned by the town government. The Art Base planned to move into its new site by 2023.
The nonprofit group switched direction in November by purchasing the Three Bears building in downtown Basalt.
“We didn’t mean to pull the rug out from anybody,” Art Base executive director Skye Skinner told the Town Council last week.
The COVID-19 pandemic struck shortly after Basalt River Park received its final approval, she noted. The economic aftermath of the pandemic forced the Art Base to reassess its fundraising capacity, Skinner said. The nonprofit will spend significantly less by purchasing the Three Bears building than constructing the space in the new development, she said.
“We’re so happy to be in the heart of historic Basalt,” Skinner said.
None of the council members criticized the decision, but Councilman Glenn Drummond said it “changes the dynamic” of Basalt River Park.
Skinner assured the board that the decision was made solely because of the economic developments in 2020. It wasn’t meant as a reflection the River Park development.
Skinner also expressed optimism that some other nonprofit organization will benefit from the site at Basalt River Park now that the Art Base has a new home.
When Basalt granted approval for Basalt River Park, the 6,500-square-foot space was designated for the Art Base or some other nonprofit use. The town purchased the site to make it easier for a nonprofit to obtain the site. Now that it has the site but no tenant, it will discuss Feb. 23 how to find the right fit.
Councilman Bill Infante noted there has been extensive community desire for some type of youth facility. That might be a possible use, he said.
Meanwhile, the Art Base sought an extension of their lease as well as rent relief from the town for its existing site. The Three Bears building gallery will be finished by May and classroom space will be available by September. The organization’s current lease in the town-owned space expires in April. The Art Base asked the town to extend the lease to September.
In addition, Art Base officials asked the town to exempt the organization from rent retroactive to December. The Art Base pays $1,000 per month.
“Navigating the pandemic has been challenging for everyone,” said a letter to the town from the Art Base. “In our case it meant a 20% budget reduction, and the loss of earned income from in-person classes and exhibits. We managed to squeak by, while concurrently raising the down payment for the new building, and incurring a monthly mortgage payment of $8,700.”
The rent relief will help the organization with its budget, the letter said.
The council voted 7-0 to approve the rent relief. The council also will discuss what to do with the Art Base’s existing space come September in the Feb. 23 work session.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Tuesday is Election Day in city of Aspen. Make sure your ballot is received by 7 p.m. on March 2.