Squatter discovered before demolition of Taqueria building in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Squatter discovered before demolition of Taqueria building in Basalt

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
The old Taqueria el Nopal building was demolished Monday morning.
Susan Philp/Courtesy photo |

The popular Taqueria el Nopal restaurant couldn’t be saved from demolition Monday, but quick thinking by a construction worker prevented the loss of a life.

Cleve Williams was contracted by the town government to demolish the building that once housed the Taqueria and an adjacent video store. Williams was prepared to tear into the building with a track hoe Monday morning when he said his instincts told him to give it a thorough check. He walked through the old video store half of the building and found a man sleeping. He had trouble rousing him so he called police to do a welfare check.

The police were able to wake the man and he left without incident, Williams said.

“I was thinking all day, ‘What if I would have just started smashing?’” Williams said. “He was right above where I was going to start.”

The video side of the building hasn’t been occupied for years. The popular Taqueria vacated its half of the structure last month and the owners are still seeking a new home in Basalt.

Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon credited Williams with doing more than a cursory search of the property. “You could have just looked in the windows. Luckily he went through it,” Scanlon said.

It was unknown if the squatter knew what was occurring. “I don’t think (he) knew how close (he) was to being crumpled,” Scanlon said.

The structure came down without further incident by noon. The materials were hauled off, except the concrete foundation, by 5 p.m.

Rocky Mountain Institute aims to start construction of a new office and Innovation Center, which will showcase energy-efficient construction, later this year.