It seems that everybody in Aspen wants to fight about something. Aspen has 5000 residents, 2500 voters and 100,000 opinions. Currently one of the most controversial subjects in Aspen is the proposed new building for the Aspen Art Museum (AAM) at the Wienerstube site. It's an Aspen Art Conundrum. Click Off Off Season for more pix.
Todd Shaver, host of the weekly Aspen Business Luncheon provided the venue for a discussion about the new AAM. Shaver created a platform for The AAM, their opposition, Saving Aspen's Character (SAC) and The City of Aspen (The City) to explain their positions regarding the Aspen Art Conundrum. It was a record turnout for the Aspen Business Luncheon as more than 120 people attended, and many more were turned away at the door.
The tension in the room was thick. Moderator Terry Hale opened by saying "like any family", Aspen needs to "talk about their issues". A-Spin will try to simplify this complex set of circumstances and a long history for you. We'll twiterize it--- so to speak.
AAM: AAM wants to build a beautiful new museum in the core of Aspen. They want it very badly. They want it badly enough to embrace a controversial deal with The City and the developer. They have the drive and the private funding to accomplish their goal. AAM provides great community services and raises the cultural bar in our little mountain town. They want to create a legacy in Downtown Aspen....but at what emotional cost?
SAC: SAC has 2 major objections to the proposed museum. The size, scope and mass of the project and the lack of "due process" in the approval of the project. Its a given in Aspen that any large project will receive tremendous scrutiny, but this group seems well organized and quite serious. The design element is subjective--so we'll stay out of that one, the lack of due process issue is a potential keg of dynamite.
THE CITY: The City has turned down several development proposals for this site. The owner/developer felt "abused by the process" and that "their rights were violated". The developer filed suit. The City defended themselves successfully, but appeals are pending. Apparently there is a possibility that the verdict will be over-turned and The City could have a large potential liability. In order to settle the suit The City negotiated a 3-way deal between AAM, the Developer and themselves. The design process was fast-tracked and approved. According to The City, the design is compliant with their zoning codes and the public review process is never mandatory. Questions arrose: 1)How/why did The City back themselves into such a difficult corner? What were they thinking? Did they violate the site owner's rights? 2) Did The City think their fast-tracked approval would go unnoticed? Did they take an "end around" to cover themselves?
CONCLUSION: This seems like a perfect case study for CONSENSUS BUILDING. Maybe we can all work together as a community to resolve the ASPEN ART CONUNDRUM. We get it, AAM wants a new home. They have the power and the $$$ to pull it off. They have a proverbial target on their back no matter what they do. SAC does not seem to be against the concept of a new museum downtown. They are against the size of the proposed building and the "back-door" deal that was made. Are they NIMBY's or responsible citizens with valid concerns? It seems like The City was willing to change their own rules and processes to suit their needs. Their actions seem sneaky , borderline dis-honest even if they can justify them somehow. Can there be a solution?
The City ,the AAM and the SAC need to work this out ASAP. It should not be that difficult. Everyone needs to give up a little. The design needs to be modified--maybe slightly, perhaps a higher percentage of FAR below grade. The SAC needs to accept change and realize that a world-class museum (even one without a permanent collection) is an asset to Aspen. The City needs to look in the mirror and be accountable for their actions. They need to build a consensus. This Aspen Art Conundrum won't be swept under the rug. Step up people-- lets work together instead of in opposition.
The opinion of AspenSpin is just that--an opinion. Everyone has one.
See more OFF OFF SEASON pix. Click it.