University looking to sell Given Institute in Aspen
December 22, 2009
ASPEN – The Given Institute, a scientific think tank established by Aspen visionary Elizabeth Paepcke 37 years ago, will shut down next year. The property’s owner, the Regents of the University of Colorado, is looking to sell the West End property.
Richard Krugman, the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, said Monday the school is in discussions with potential buyers.
The 2.25-acre property, at 100 East Francis St., was appraised last year for $12.5 million. Krugman said the university needs a minimum of $20 million to keep the facility and its programs operating.
The school has been trying for the past eight years to raise funds to renovate the aging building, which has become too expensive to maintain in recent years.
And with little funding for higher education and budget cuts, the university can no longer continue to operate the 12,000 square feet of meeting space and related facilities – let alone renovate them.
“I suspect this summer will be the last in keeping the building open,” Krugman said. “The school has been subsidizing the property for the past 19 years and we can’t keep doing that … the building is a drain and our costs are too great to continue.”
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Krugman added that the school has been subsidizing the property at the cost of $150,000 to $200,000 a year. Donors on an annual basis provide the estimated $75,000 to support the institute’s programs like public lectures on everything from cancer, heart, lung and kidney research to ethics and genetics.
The Given Institute was built in Aspen in 1972 with funds donated by the Irene Heinz Given and John LaPorte Given Foundation. The land was donated to the university by Paepcke.
The Given Institute is operated under the supervision of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The Given Institute was originally established as an intellectual center to foster interaction between biomedical scientists from across the U.S. and abroad. It was essentially a lab for molecular biology and science.
Since the 1980s, the institute has expanded its original purpose and is now used for continuing education, including a wide array of scientific meetings, seminars and public lectures. The facility also is rented out by other nonprofit groups and the public.
Krugman said he has been in discussions with the Aspen Institute about moving the public lecture series there, as well as the four months of programming that occurs during the summer. He said those negotiations will continue after the first of the year.
“If we can find a place for programming year round we can draw even more people to Aspen,” he said, adding the Given Institute brings people to town from all over the country and is considered one of the top draws for out-of-town guests. “If we had a venue, we can bring a lot of people to Aspen.”
Krugman said the idea of liquidating the property was first proposed by the Given Institute’s community advisory board. Since then, he has been in discussions with surrounding neighbors, including Jonathan Lewis and two other individuals.
“We’ve been in discussions of a possible sale but we’re not there yet,” Krugman said.
Lewis, a local philanthropist, might be best known in the community for demolishing the Brown-Paepcke house in 1998 that he and his partner, Robert Posada, had purchased on First Street. It was the home of Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, and before that, D.R.C. Brown, one of Aspen’s founding fathers.
He said he and his family are not interested in buying the property mostly because the city of Aspen isn’t supportive of it.
Mayor Mick Ireland, who is reportedly aware of the Given Institute’s situation, wasn’t available for comment Monday.
If the Lewis family did buy it, their plans would be to minimize development on the property, Lewis said Monday.
Krugman said the school needs double whatever the appraised value is of the property to ensure the institute’s future.
“If I can get a significant gift, we can set up an endowment for programming,” he said. “We need a minimum of $20 million to assure the endowment and help the school here.”
Krugman said when he became dean of the school in 1990 he met Paepcke at the Given Institute.
“She told me then, ‘you better take care of this building because it’s getting seedy,'” he said. “I’ve been trying and subsidizing it ever since.”