Letter: The best applicant won

Two years ago, the Aspen City Council asked the community to bring various “memory making” proposals to it for a new tenant in the old Aspen Art Museum space. A volunteer citizen committee and the City Council culled more than 15 concepts for the new space and narrowed the field to four applicants, which then went through a rigorous public screening process. At a City Council meeting in March 2015, more than 100 people crowded the council chambers, with the majority voicing support for the Aspen Power Plant — a combination of an affordable shared work space, a television station, event space and a food-and-beverage component operated by the Aspen Brewing Co.

Those in the room — many of whom had not set foot in the council chambers prior — represented a wide demographic, but the youth voice was heard. Our generation supported the proposal that would bring vitality to an iconic location and give entrepreneurs a space to meet, collaborate and create. You could feel the energy and excitement!

A year later, the Power Plant is in the news again. Certain groups may be upset about the decision to award the space to this group, but we want to remind the public that a full vetting process took place, and the best applicant won. The council specifically requested in its request for proposals that the applicants propose a memory-making center of community space for those who live, work and visit here. It asked that the project exemplify collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation. Not only will this project be memory-making, but it serves the next generation of Aspenites trying to make it in this valley.

Our group — the Aspen Next Generation Advisory Commission — is committed to advancing the policy interests of individuals between the ages of 18 and 40 who live or work in Aspen. Many of these individuals want to stay here for the long term. When surveyed, our demographic is most worried about two things: affordable housing and long-term business or career success. Our group worked to address a component of the latter worry by starting Create Mentorship Aspen, a program to bring together professionally experienced, accomplished members of our community and pair them with energetic, driven and community-minded younger Aspenites. While one of our commission members — Aspen Brewing Co. owner Duncan Clauss — is part of the Power Plant effort, when asked to weigh in on the proposals, that member recused himself from the voting process. We strove for objectivity and clarity at every turn and were never influenced by personal ties. The resulting determination simply affirms our commission’s mission to represent and give voice to a silent minority — the younger-than-40 demographic.

The Power Plant’s shared community work space will address the need for a place for people with small businesses or big ideas to collaborate and work together for a better Aspen and a better valley for the long term. Imagine more Aspen Brewing Cos., GoldLeaf Events, Strafe Outerwears, Corbeaux Clothing and LoveGrown Foods being nurtured and grown in a shared workplace like this.

Lastly, the food-and-beverage component can only do good for the community. In a town that is losing affordable eating and gathering places at an alarming rate, we believe in having spaces where people can gather, have a bite, sip on a beer and get to know one another.

The Aspen Next Generation Advisory Commission looks forward to the Power Plant and appreciates the vetting process that brought us here.

Skippy Mesirow, Christine Benedetti, Kimbo Brown-Schirato, Duncan Clauss, Lindsey Palardy, Matt Evans, Michael Rees and Clay Stranger

Aspen Next Generation Advisory Commission