Pitkin County wants to settle fate of historic buildings in Emma

The old Emma store (left) and adjacent warehouse were in danger of collapsing from neglect when Pitkin County Open Space and Trails acquired them in 2008.
Aspen Times file photo

More than a decade after acquiring the Emma store and surrounding buildings, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails wants to dig into plans on how to use them.

A steering committee will be assembled this winter to sort through proposed uses and recommend how the historic buildings can best be used. It’s a challenging site because it is so close to Highway 82 and access is limited. In addition, the buildings have historic designation, which dictates any remodels.

The open space program acquired the buildings and surrounding 12.5 acres of land in 2008 for $2.65 million with a contribution from the town of Basalt. A 58-acre parcel of land had been previously acquired south of the highway. Some of that land is now leased for farming.

The governments acquired the store site because the brick building and adjacent warehouse were in danger of collapse from ravages of time and the expansion of Highway 82 right outside its front door.

“The highway project compromised the store building,” the open space program said in a notice about the formation of the steering committee. “Heavy traffic rattled the brick edifices and the ravages of plowed snow and deicer caused further damage.”

The structures were stabilized with the help of a grant from state historic funds. Some observers were critical of Pitkin County’s expenditure of $110,000 to stabilize the buildings and another $548,491 to restore the store, warehouse, powder house and the Charles H. Mather home. Historical records indicate they were built around 1898. All have Pitkin County historic designation.

“Any alterations to the structures in future phases will need to address the restoration of the windows, doors and rear walls; construction of new interior floors; and other requirements determined by their anticipated use.”

The open space staff created a management plan in 2017 that incorporated proposed uses from interested members of the public. The possible uses include a heritage museum, visitors’ center, heritage craft center, restaurant, farmers market, local food processing center and even a brewery.

“Solutions could include long-term leasing or public-private partnerships,” the management plan says. The county also reserved the right to subdivide the property so that portions can be resold.

A link where people can apply to participate on the steering committee is available at emma-townsite-steering- committee.html.


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