Residents plan grassroots effort to save Aspen’s Given building | AspenTimes.com

Residents plan grassroots effort to save Aspen’s Given building

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – A grassroots effort by residents to save the Given Institute from a potential sale and demolition is planning to canvass the community for donations from nonprofits, public institutions and private businesses.

Sara Broughton, vice chair of the Historic Preservation Commission and a member of newly formed committee, said the group would also seek voter support for a possible November ballot item.

The institute’s owner, the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine, announced that it would sell the property to an unnamed buyer earlier this year to alleviate a series of drastic state funding cuts.

CU administrators have said the university can no longer sustain the building, which it operates at a net loss of up to $200,000 a year. The buyer CU was courting, officials said, would not purchase the property unless the building as demolished. The only other usage of the land allowed in zoning rules is as a residential property, Broughton said.

The school tentatively agreed by drafting a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding Aspen possibly finding an alternative, such as asking voters for permission to buy the property for the same amount of money the buyer offered – $17 million, the university says. The MOU has not yet been signed, Broughton said.

But Broughton and several other members of the newly formed committee said any ballot measure asking for a tax increase would be a tough sell to voters. So the committee is looking to find ways around that scenario.

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“I think the bigger thing about it … is it’s a losing proposition,” Broughton said during the committee’s first meeting Thursday.

The options for preserving the Given include a lease agreement with the university; a public/private sharing model in which possible private and public constituents of keeping the museum would pitch the money to buy it; and purchasing transferable development rights for the property from the university.

The group also plans to lobby public and private entities, including the Aspen Global Change Institute, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, to contribute time and money to the effort in exchange for the opportunity to host events in the building.

Broughton said ACES has indicated that it will support the initiative.

The late Aspen philanthropist Elizabeth Paepcke donated the property to the university about 40 years ago, and since, it has been used as a venue for medical forums in accordance with Paepcke’s wishes. John Katzenberger, the director of the Aspen Global Change Institute, said turning the property into a residence would dishonor those wishes.

“It would be a violation of the intent of the gift,” Katzenberger said.

ahedge@aspentimes.com