Talks over Given Institute in Aspen continue | AspenTimes.com

Talks over Given Institute in Aspen continue

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Ziska Childs/WikipediaThe round conference room at Aspen's Given Institute may have seen its last CU medical conference last May. The city and the University of Colorado medical school are working on a deal to preserve the institute building.

ASPEN – It’s been more than five months since the University of Colorado’s medical school announced that it wanted to demolish the Given Institute and sell the Aspen property on which it sits.

The building is still standing, and the university hasn’t sold the property, which overlooks Hallam Lake from a lot located at 100 E. Francis St.

And emerging from daily e-mail conversations among the city of Aspen, CU and the potential buyer is a possible resolution.

Dan Meyers, the medical school’s spokesman, said Monday that the city and the potential buyer “are moving in a positive direction” to establish an agreement that would appease both parties. The city wants to keep the building, possibly through a subdivision of the property, and the buyer wants to secure a profit.

“They are at the table looking at ways to make the deal happen,” Meyers said.

He noted, though, that the potential buyer and the city have not yet reached a firm deal. He also said the timeline for an agreement is up in the air, as no deadlines have been set for a contract signing.

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CU has established a proposed price in the neighborhood of $15 million, but that is tentative, Meyers said.

The likelihood now of a buyer demolishing the building is much lower than it was in May, as the first buyer with whom the university established a relationship didn’t want the property unless the building was gone.

That’s not necessarily the case now, Meyers said last month, because demolishing the Given is not an absolute for the newest interested parties.

The deal is being brokered through efforts to find a middle ground that will make the buyer – who may want to build a single-family home on the lot – the city and the university happy.

The City Council has extended the negotiation period twice.

It is expected to decide on Monday what it will do with a proposed emergency order to rezone the property to only allow academic uses on it.

It approved a first reading of the ordinance at the beginning of September to establish more leverage for the city in the negotiations.

As the latest in a long list of efforts by city staff and Aspen citizens to keep the iconic Aspen building, the emergency ordinance would prohibit the property owner from building a single-family home on the lot, which essentially devalues it.

If approved, it would go into effect within 24 hours, instead of the normal 30-day adoption period of land-use decisions.

But it does not keep the buyer from leveling the Given.

Notable among the other efforts to keep the Given Institute intact was a proposed measure for Tuesday’s ballot that would have asked voters permission to buy the property for $15 million. In August the City Council decided not to poll voters, saying the price was too steep.

Aspen philanthropist Elizabeth Paepcke gave the property to the university in the early 1970s. She wanted it to be used as a forum for medical and science conferences, which CU has hosted at the building for nearly four decades.

But, given its tight financial situation as state funding for public programs like higher education dwindles, the university can no longer afford the operating costs of the institute, which can exceed $200,000 a year, according to university officials.

Historic preservation activists have said the Given Institute is an essential cultural resource for the city.

The building hosted what was probably its last conference at the beginning of October.

ahedge@aspentimes.com