The Future of the Astor House

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Current:

On July 23, 2020, City Council decided that they would accept community based proposals for lease of the Astor House at 12th and Arapahoe Streets. Council is not interested in a sale of the property, and wants to emphasize community benefit in the proposals. Two proposals have been submitted from the Foothills Art Center and the Golden Civic Foundation. The City is seeking feedback below on both and will discuss the proposals in their September 24, 2020 meeting.

Background:

The Foster/Astor Yard group presented to four boards/committees for feedback, the Parks, Recreation, and Museums Board, Citizen Budget Advisory

Current:

On July 23, 2020, City Council decided that they would accept community based proposals for lease of the Astor House at 12th and Arapahoe Streets. Council is not interested in a sale of the property, and wants to emphasize community benefit in the proposals. Two proposals have been submitted from the Foothills Art Center and the Golden Civic Foundation. The City is seeking feedback below on both and will discuss the proposals in their September 24, 2020 meeting.

Background:

The Foster/Astor Yard group presented to four boards/committees for feedback, the Parks, Recreation, and Museums Board, Citizen Budget Advisory Committee, Downtown Development Authority, and the Historic Preservation Committee. Overall, the boards and committees seem to be interested in the Foster Proposal and noted that there are more steps before the city can make a final decision about the Astor House. For full conversations, please see the links to videos of the meetings below or on the agendas on our website.

  • The Foster Group indicated that they would agree to:

    • Preservation easement that stays with the property in perpetuity.

    • Any alterations or modifications to the exterior will follow the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Board and the State Historic Preservation Office.

    • The City having the right of first refusal.

    • Require the first floor and yard to be open to the public for a majority of open hours.

    • The price of $550,000.

    • On June 13, City Council confirmed the recommendation of the review committee to move forward on the Foster Proposal by inviting presentations before other city boards and committees. The key questions that are being considered by the boards and commissions are:

  • Does the use support Golden Vision goals?
  • Does the use complement the building, the downtown area, and the neighborhood?
  • Does the use have long-term potential and a sustainable business idea?
  • Does the use appropriately preserve the historic façade and respect the history of the building?
  • Does the proposed compensation to the city and financial terms benefit the city?
  • Should the Foster proposal include the Astor Yard as a partner?

Memorandum sent to the City Council

Full Proposal

Here are video links to the meetings where the Astor House Presentation/Proposal was discussed:

The Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in September of 2018 and closed in November, generating five proposals for the City to consider. The proposals were subsequently reviewed by a working group consisting of staff subject matter experts, three City Council representatives, and three community representatives.

The Review Committee presented their recommendation to City Council in the March 21 study session. The committee recommended moving the Foster Proposal forward to board and commissions for review as well as gathering public input.

City Council provided guidance to the review committee to give all proposers a chance to reconsider their proposals and make any changes they would like based on feedback from the committee and city council.

Two proposals were resubmitted with new information and were presented to the review committee on May 30, 2019. The review committee asked questions and discussed the process moving forward.

History:

The Astor House inhabits a special part of Golden’s history and lore. The 150-year-old structure was built in 1867 and served as a hotel and boarding house for more than a century. The building was saved from demolition in the 1970s, came under City ownership, and was made into an historic house museum.

The Astor House struggled as a museum and visitation declined precipitously over the past many years. Additionally, the building faced many structural issues including overloaded joists, water intrusion, and foundation degradation.

In 2015, the Astor House underwent a major structural rehabilitation that added steel beams to support the flooring of the structure. This project included asbestos abatement throughout the first and second floors of the building, which removed wallpaper and plaster. The project effectively left the building structurally stable but the interior gutted with no ceilings, walls, plumbing, or electrical. The decision was made to not complete interior finishes until a determination is made as to the use or disposition of property. Cost estimates anticipate a minimum of $500,000 to make the building inhabitable. The City replaced the roof in August 2018. The property is zoned C-2.

The City previously considered several options for building use, including other types of museums, office space, bed and breakfasts, special event rental space, conference space, etc. An extensive feasibility study was conducted in 2017 to evaluate a Colorado Beer Museum concept for the property. Consultants M. Goodwin Museum Planning Inc. were retained to complete the study.

The findings of the study were threefold. 1. The Colorado Beer Museum concept is a winner. 2. The standalone Astor House is an insufficient and inadequate space for a successful Colorado Beer Museum. 3. The Astor House is ill-suited for any standalone museum to sustain itself.

While the City’s Golden History Museum and Park division utilized the building in the past, staff determined that the structure is not ideal for any current municipal use. According to the City Attorney, because the property was purchased for municipal use, any other type of use would be subject to a vote of the people for approval. City Council directed staff to solicit proposals to help determine best potential future uses and whether or not a vote of the people would be required.

Astor House Proposals

The City of Golden has received two Astor House proposals. One from the  Foothills Art Center and the other from the Golden Civic Foundation.

We want to know what you think of each, so please have a look through each and give us your thoughts.

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Although the GCF has a vision, I strongly support FAC's proposal as I feel it will be a spectacular benefit to so many. With such a strong staff and excellent expertise, I believe their vision will promote so many programs to benefit all ages and will certainly enhance the Art District in Golden. As a member of the Foothills Art Center, I have personally benefitted and wish for the expansion of what they do. I would like to see the FAC's proposal gain approval and as a Golden Realtor, know that many of my clients would utilize this Facility. Cathy Schneider, RE/MAX Alliance, 1019 8th Street

cathysellscolorado 15 minutes ago

My family and I chose Golden as our hometown 10 years ago and we love it. The prospect of re-imagining the Astor House is exciting, and after having thoroughly read both proposals, I am highly in favor of the Foothills Art Center proposal. As an artist and former co-leader of the Foothills Art Center Open Studio group, I have been blessed in my art journey by FAC’s support. In my involvement with FAC, it has become apparent that space has been a limitation to truly becoming a hub for the arts community. Open Studio is just one art group in Golden. We want to hang out with others. Kids don’t have a fun art space yet besides during the summer. As a parent, if I am in another town with an interactive children’s art space, my daughters and I are definitely going to check it out. When summer classes occur at FAC in our only classroom, Open Studio has had to scramble to find a place to meet. Our community has offered spaces, but it would be a relief not to have to ask. Plus, the Peterson classroom is definitely not accessible for all. The elevator in FAC’s proposal is essential.We artists like having local and out-of-town visitors see our work: eyes=buyers, so the open feel of the Astor House proposal is great. Plus, having a small retail space to showcase our marketable-to-art-loving-tourists artwork would be a major boon. Probably because of the massive hill getting there, 15th and Washington seems like it’s far away from downtown. Foothills has done a great job of enticing people to come up through signs and such, but why not have a hub near GCB, Miner’s Alley, Golden Moon, Golden Goods, and other big draws for pedestrians? Having the park next to it as well brings even more visibility and diversity to our blossoming art culture. Imagine paint-outs there, outdoor painting classes, youth art, dance performances, yoga, mini-concerts, etc. Sidenote- FAC even thought to plant trees, etc, between the Astor park and neighborhood so the sound from events wouldn’t make neighbors grumpy.Golden Civic Foundation’s proposal is well put-together and I greatly respect them. They have experience with this type of thing…but that’s one reason FAC is my choice of proposal. GCF has made major positive improvements to Golden, yet with the places they have created, how do they not yet have a mixed-use space for all the non-profits or small groups in Golden? What happened to the meeting spaces in Gateway Station or Clear Creek Square? Isn’t the Community Center available for a variety of group meetings? Dedicated art space seems a better idea because you don’t have to make a space to be all things to all people. FAC is skilled in creating artist and art-friendly environments, so let’s let them stick to that theme. Thank you for your consideration of my comments. - Melody Huisjen

HideawayArt 26 minutes ago

I believe the FAC proposal will benefit the community. I know the Civic Foundation would also honor the history of the Astor House, however I feel that the FAC one would be more interesting to tourists and gain more foot traffic, while still bringing in Golden Community members.

tamarast about 1 hour ago

FAC is a vital art resource in the Golden community. They host year-round events, featuring local talent and promoting the arts. I cannot speak highly enough about the center's leadership and commitment to enriching Golden with all they have to offer. They really care about developing and growing interest in the arts, from school-age through adulthood. The opportunity for FAC to expand their reach and provide even more options for Golden is very exciting. They deserve and have earned that opportunity!

susiedrucker about 1 hour ago

Both are excellent plans. In keeping Golden 'open', both submitters should be asked to provide COVID adjustments or plans to use the space in our new operating environment. I prefer the Civic Foundations proposal for a better community space. Like the community center, I worry that it becomes a loitering space for panhandlers and vagabonds. Community space needs to be productively inclusive--a place to do and connect--not loiter.

tony.shouse about 1 hour ago

I really believe that the Foothills Art Center proposal is the stronger proposal for the Astor House and can do many of the projects proposed by the Golden Civic Foundation along with all of their own proposals. I believe that FAC has more to offer to the city of Golden with their use of the Astor House for all ages and citizens living in and around Golden (Denver to Evergreen and beyond) and by bringing the arts to the heart of downtown Golden. I got involved with FAC in the 90's while living in Denver when my husband was asked to serve on the board. I was amazed that in the small town of Golden there was such a lovely art institute that offered educational and diverse art programs, professional artwork being created and hung in the galley and its history in the community. We now live in Evergreen and I am still involved with FAC through the Open Studio for artists. Open Studio is open to beginner to professional artists. The camaraderie among the group is incredible and supportive. I believe, this group will utilize the second floor of the Astor House to open up the arts to so many more folks of all ages, nationalities, gender, etc. living in Golden and surrounding communities through educational programs, demos, learning experiences, and by offering a supportive environment to learn about and practice the arts. The following quote from the www.artist.me website sums up why are is so powerful:"Why is Art so Powerful?Perhaps the simplest answer to this question is that art touches us emotionally.Art is powerful because it can potentially influence our culture, politics, and even the economy. When we see a powerful work of art, you feel it touching deep within your core, giving us the power to make real-life changes.In the words of Leo Tolstoy:“The activity of art is based on the capacity of people to infect others with their own emotions and to be infected by the emotions of others. Strong emotions, weak emotions, important emotions or irrelevant emotions, good emotions or bad emotions – if they contaminate the reader, the spectator, or the listener – it attains the function of art.”In sum, art can be considered powerful because of the following reasons, among others:It has the power to educate people about almost anything. It can create awareness and present information in a way that could be absorbed by many easily. In a world where there are those who don’t even have access to good education; art makes education an even greater equalizer of society.It promotes cultural appreciation among a generation that’s currently preoccupied with their technology. In fact, it can be said that if it weren’t for art, our history, culture, and traditions would be in more danger of being forgotten than they already are.It breaks cultural, social, and economic barriers. While art can’t really solve poverty or promote social justice on its own, it can be used as a leveled playing field for discourse and expression. The reason why everyone can relate to art is that everyone has emotions and personal experiences. Therefore, anyone can learn to appreciate art regardless of their social background, economic standing, or political affiliation.It accesses higher orders of thinking. Art doesn’t just make you absorb information. Rather, it makes you think about current ideas and inspire you to make your own. This is why creativity is a form of intelligence – it is a special ability that unlocks the potentials of the human mind. In fact, studies have shown that exposure to art can make you better in other fields of knowledge."Cathy JonesProfessional Artisthttps://www.cathyjonesart.com

sunflowerstudio about 2 hours ago

We strongly support the Foothills Art Center's proposal to move to the Astor House. This would put them in the heart of Golden (so to speak) and adjacent to where art festivals are staged. FAC is been in integral part of Golden for decades and provided exhibits and classes to adults and kids alike. They truly represent the Heart and Soul of Golden and they belong at Astor.

connewr about 2 hours ago

Of the two proposals before City Council, I think the Foothills Art Center one will positively affect more people in Golden and bring more people through the Astor House's doors. Foothills Art Center has been a great community resource and asset and increasing it's presence, especially in such a central location will be great for the community!

mececil about 3 hours ago

I very much favor FAC's proposal. Foothills already successfully manages a historic building, nurtures artists, curates exhibitions, educates all ages and connects with the community. Its expertise in these areas has been proven over 50 years. It has the staff in place right now to carry out this proposal. In recent years it has reached out beyond the visual arts and beyond its limited space. It has worked with public education and the performing arts presenting programs for all ages. It has also adapted well to the present environment by putting many of its programs on line for all to enjoy free of charge. I am sure it will bring this wide range of expertise to the Astor House project, thereby insuring its success.

rdolian about 4 hours ago

While both organizations have established they can successfully benefit the community, I believe the public access and participation opportunities makes the FAC proposal a better fit for this particular location. The FAC team -- with a curator and curator of education on staff -- is skilled in programming and could optimize engagement thanks to the area's high foot traffic, while the Golden Civic Foundation's public access opportunities are much less defined and its collaborative meeting hub proposal could be executed at any number of locations. In the FAC proposal, I love that the first floor would support artmaking opportunities and free general admission. I appreciate that FAC proposes to support multiple artistic disciplines by providing a recording studio, small performance stage and kitchen for culinary arts, which will expand its relevancy to the community. I believe that expanding access to the arts in Golden will be economically beneficial as well. According to the proposal, FAC's estimated local economic impact is over $1.2 million annually. Studies indicate that this impact will grow. Per the most recent CBCA Economic Activity Study, the "Denver metro area continues to see steady rise in economic impact from cultural tourists, reaching nearly $400 million." (https://cbca.org/economic-activity-study/) And, Colorado continues to have an eager audience for the arts. According to the NEA's latest Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, 66.5% of Colorado’s adults attended live music, theater, or dance performances (compared to the national average of 48.5%), and 42.1% attended art exhibitions (compared to the national average of 22.7%). I think balancing the historical significance of the building with a contemporary art space is pretty cool, too. Thanks!

karboc about 12 hours ago

I think FAC's proposal is great, and perhaps more importantly I think Hassan's leadership is outstanding. I was blown away from the couple coffee/lunch conversations I've had with him about how he runs FAC and has run community facilities just like this. The strengths, potential pitfalls, strategies, revenue generators and non-revenue generators, how to encourage community involvement. He's a dynamo and has worked in this field for years and learned from others before him. What he's done with FAC, partnering with Sherpa House next door to jointly use the space between the buildings, the truly innovative programming he brought to gallery spaces, putting local artists front and center, the degree to which he has revived its place in the community, sets up FAC perfectly to do it again with Astor House and make it a vibrant part of downtown.

Jbalkcom about 17 hours ago

I absolutely love the proposal from the Foothills Art Center. When the arts thrive and are encouraged in town in such ways, everybody benefits, not least the artists among us. I read over the proposal in detail and I believe Golden *needs* this. Keeping the courtyard open to the community is wonderful and making the inside a place that encourages so much beauty and creativity is ingenious. Thank you for putting so much thought into this proposal. It's brilliant. I'm so encouraged and hopeful!

Christina Morrison about 18 hours ago

Having reviewed both proposals it seems to me that the FAC proposal offers more opportunity for the site to be used by the Golden community. I especially love the idea of spaces separated by glass walls so anyone can go to the second floor and observe artists and musicians working. The other proposal does not even make the second floor accessible to the public. FAC has occupied an historic building for decades and has demonstrated its ability to keep the historic character of the property while updating the building itself and the surrounding courtyard as community needs required. In addition current FAC management has made huge strides in partnering with the Golden community in arts events and seems limited only by space. For these reasons I would urge adoption of the FAC proposal regarding Astor House. Louise Sliman

Mishka301 about 18 hours ago

As an artist that has been a part of FAC for well over 10 years now, the Astor house project would be such a blessing to both the art community and the public. Open Studio has been one of my favorite parts of FAC. I love the community and friendships it has provided. Unfortunately, we have to scrape up other places to work in the summer as the kiddo camps take over "our" space. We understand that art is important for them, but it does take 3.5 months out of our meeting space. The Astor house would allow us to keep on doing our thing- for all of us. Additionally, I was part of the Open Door Studios in Evergreen this past weekend. With everything going on, we wern't sure what the turnout would be, but *it was huge!* The public misses the art scene. It was so fun to watch people enjoy art again. Having a gallery open to the public just off the main streets of Golden would be a blessing to everyone. I hope you'll strongly consider the FAC proposal for this amazing space.

Andi Burnum about 19 hours ago

I'm thrilled that the City of Golden has accepted another round of proposals for the Astor House and that the goal is a community benefit. After reading both of the proposals, it's clear to me that the FAC proposal would serve a wider slice of the community. I'd love to take my children to the drop-in kids art space and peruse the gallery exhibit. I would also love to use the open studio space upstairs, and take a quilt or some knitting to work on in the company of other artists. I don't see these opportunities in the GCF proposal - only that I could be a guest in that space for a special event or I could enter if I have a meeting with an organization that meets there. The FAC proposal creates a welcoming space that community members could drop into year-round and enjoy with our families. (Full disclosure: I helped the FAC with some schematic architectural diagrams for the proposal)

Angschwab about 21 hours ago

Hassan Najjar here, ED at Foothills Art Center. I just wanted to add that we'll be paying special attention to these comments. Part of our plan includes a Public Input Process and the creation of a Heritage Management Plan should we be selected. We put forth a proposal that we think will be an asset to the community, however, we will welcome ideas to help us further refine or adapt our plans. Thanks for sounding off!

HassanNajjar 1 day ago

At least the Foothills proposal can allow more people to use it, although I'd like to see more opportuntity for a makers space that is more widely accessible to everyone. We don't need more space and funds going to economic development than we already do; reject the civic foundation proposal.

Goco 1 day ago