John Colson, The Aspen Times
ASPEN — Aspen’s Jewish congregation, which has been planning to build a synagogue and community center on Main Street, is now eyeing another potential location at the end of Ute Avenue.
The congregation is in negotiations to possibly buy the former home of Andrea Jaeger’s Silver Lining Ranch, a facility of 15,000 square feet on more than 6 acres of land, Rabbi Mendel Mintz confirmed Tuesday. Located on the east side of town near The Aspen Club, the property was used for about seven years as a getaway for children with life-threatening diseases.
Jaeger ceased operations at the ranch in 2006 when she moved the organization to a new location in Durango, where it operates as the Little Star Foundation. Jaeger said at the time that she hoped to raise $55 million as an endowment for the organization.
The property was listed on the market in 2006 for $25 million, but the price was dropped to $20 million this year, according to the listing real estate agent, after the city made it clear that the use of the property must be limited to another nonprofit organization rather than to a private-home developer.
Mintz said the talks between his congregation and Jaeger started up after the city’s desires became clear.
But despite the negotiations, the rabbi stressed that, for now, “Our future is still here … on Main Street,” where the congregation has received city approvals to build a 34,000-square-foot facility that will take up half a city block. Mintz said the Main Street property, long home to the L’Auberge lodge, has not been put up for sale as talks continue concerning the ranch.
In the meantime, local land-use planning consultant Alan Richman has filed an application with City Hall to convert the ranch facility into a new home for the congregation.
And real estate broker Ed Zasacky, who has the listing on the ranch property but refused to identify the potential buyer, said Tuesday that “it’s under contract, and there may be a closing early next year.”
According to documents on file at City Hall, the facility is tentatively to be called the Aspen Jewish Community Center at the Silver Lining Ranch. It’s on Lot 5 of the Stillwater Ranch planned unit development. The land is zoned “academic/specially planned area,” and was the home to Jaeger’s organization from the late 1990s until 2006.
Situated on the upper bench of the property is a 14,000-square-foot building, with three apartments, a large dining room and other facilities.
Richman said the plans now call for converting the existing building to a synagogue, and using the dining hall for celebrations and other functions. No other buildings are planned at this time, he said. Activities at the center would include a preschool, a Hebrew school, a teen program and adult education, as well as religious services and special events.
Richman said the idea of the move came at least partly from a feeling that the Silver Lining Ranch land offered better playground possibilities than the Main Street location, where kids would be limited to a small, fenced-in yard.
Regarding issues that might be of concern to the City Council, the documents submitted last week by Richman indicate that the center would generate traffic levels of roughly 124 trips per day, compared to approximately 32 trips per day generated by the Silver Lining Ranch operations.
To keep traffic to a minimum, the application proposes a free shuttle from the center of town to bring the kids to the classes. Parents who wish to drive their children to the classes would be assessed a special fee, the plan indicates.
As for parking, the plan calls for construction of 24 spaces, the equivalent of one space for every four seats in the 88-seat sanctuary.
No date has yet been set for the plan’s initial hearing before the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission.