Late Aspen artist’s daughter prefers preservation rather than speculative development
Aspen City Council on Monday night agreed to spend $225,000 to buy a conservation easement on a piece of property that would otherwise see a monster home there.
The parcel was once owned by internationally famous ceramist and artist Paul Soldner, who called Aspen his home since the 1950s. He died in 2011. He also was the founder of Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
His daughter, Stephanie Soldner, approached the city and county in 2016 to look at a possible partnership. Last fall, she offered up the 2.5-acre lot adjacent to her family’s hand-built home and her father’s studio for $500,000.
Pitkin County officials agreed last week to chip in $225,000, and $50,000 will come from Aspen Valley Land Trust.
County approvals are in place for a 12,215-square-foot home on the lot, which is described as an undisturbed sage meadow located near the Burlingame subdivision, about two miles west of Aspen.
Austin Weiss, the city’s parks and open space director, said it’s a prime area for high-quality wildlife habitat.
“It’s staggering,” he said prior to the council meeting. “It’s such a great opportunity to preserve this land.”
The parcel is surrounded by wide open meadows that are protected — the Bar X conservation easement to the east and Deer Hill open space to the west.
“All of this provides tremendous deer and elk habitat,” Weiss told council.
He also said the easement will extend the corridor so wildlife will be able to access the Roaring Fork River with no impediments. If a home were to go there, it would pinch that opportunity.
“This provides a critical connection to the river corridor,” Weiss said.
Dale Will, the county’s open space and trails acquisition and special projects director, said the northern parcel of the Soldner property is a key piece of the wildlife habitat corridor.
“It does knit together this conservation landscape we’ve all been working on for some time,” he said. “I also want to thank Stephanie Soldner for stepping forward and wanting to do this for frankly a lot less than what she could develop the property. The value of a home site out there with a big mansion on it. I will leave it to you to speculate but I dare say that it’s quite a bit more than what she’s looking for in support from us.”
Soldner has approval for the same kind of development on the southern parcel but she doesn’t plan on doing anything but preserve history and her family’s legacy.
“I have tried to create a win-win-win situation for the wildlife, the community and my family,” she said.
Soldner said she plans to protect her father’s home, studio and outbuildings on the property as a historic artist’s residence and culture center for the arts.
Five years ago, she convened a national council in the pursuit to preserve her father’s legacy as an artist and innovator and to acknowledge sustainable architecture.
She has been approached to list the property on the National Register of Historic Places. She also hopes to include it the National Trust of Historic Artists Homes and Studios, which is a consortium of about 40 museums dedicated to the legacy of significant American artists.
Soldner wants the center to be open to the public and be a place where people can gather to be inspired and encouraged to innovate and create.
The governments’ payment will go toward a $2.2 million fundraising goal for an operating endowment, which will result in historic covenants being placed on the original buildings.
If that effort is successful, Soldner would then pursue a larger fundraising goal to establish the “Soldner Center” for the arts.
She closed out her comments to council by quoting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose quote hung on the wall of her mother’s painting studio and is the message of the Soldner Center: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius power and magic in it.”
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.