Grassroots effort to save Aspen’s Given |

Grassroots effort to save Aspen’s Given

Aaron Hedge
Aspen Correspondent
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado – A grassroots committee of Aspen residents is planning to canvass the community for donations from local nonprofits, public institutions and private businesses, as well as voter support for a possible November ballot item to save the Given Institute from a potential sale and demolition.

The institute’s owner, CU-Denver’s medical school, announced that it would sell the property to an unnamed buyer earlier this year to alleviate a series of drastic state funding cuts it has endured over the last several years.

CU administrators have said the university can no longer sustain the building, which it operates at a net loss of up to $200,000 a year. The buyer CU was courting, officials said, would not purchase the property unless the building is demolished. The only other usage of the land allowed in zoning rules is as a residential property, said Sara Adams, the vice chair of the HPC.

The school tentatively agreed by drafting a memorandum of understanding that if Aspen could find an alternative, like asking the voters permission to buy the property for the same amount of money the buyer offered – $17 million, the university says. The MOU has not yet been signed, Adams said.

But Adams and several other members of the newly-formed committee said any ballot measure asking for a tax increase would be a tough sell to the voters. So the committee is looking to find ways around that scenario.

“I think the bigger thing about it … is it’s a losing proposition,” Adams said during the committee’s first meeting Thursday.

Among the options for making sure the Given does not get demolished are a lease agreement with the university, a public/private sharing model where possible private and public constituents of keeping the museum would pitch the money to buy it and purchasing transferrable development rights for the property from the university.

The group also plans to lobby public and private local entities, including the Aspen Global Change Institute, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation to contribute time and money to the effort in exchange for the opportunity to host events in the building.

Adams said ACES has indicated that it will support the initiative.

Deceased Aspen expansion enthusiast Elizabeth Paepcke donated the property to the university about 40 years ago, and since, it has been used as a venue for medical forums in accordance with Paepcke’s wishes. John Katzenberger, the director of the Aspen Global Change Institute, said turning the property into a residence would dishonor those wishes.

“It would be a violation of the intent of the gift,” Katzenberger said.

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