Pitkin County buys Emma structures
The decade-long saga of the historic Emma Store buildings has come to a close, at least as far as its impending demolition is concerned.The Pitkin County commissioners agreed July 9 to spend $2.65 million to buy the old buildings, which sit on a 12.5-acre tract of land along Highway 82 just east of the Roaring Fork River bridge.The purchase also won the support of the countys Open Space & Trails Board and the town of Basalt, which kicked in $300,000 toward the deal.The land, which also contains a century-old brick Victorian built in the locally rare Queen Anne style, has belonged to Owen Minney since he bought it in 1998 with the intentions of turning the old mercantile and warehouse buildings to some commercial purpose.It is bordered by different categories of publicly owned land, including parcels owned by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the local open space and trails agencies.According to Open Space and Trails director Dale Will, the deal has been in the works for about two months, since the county decided it had to act to head off Minneys plans to bulldoze the old buildings in order to make the land more salable to potential developers.As late as March of this year, some of the Pitkin County commissioners were quoted in news stories as being reluctant to step in to save the buildings.But, said Will, Ive been to three boards, and Ive gotten approvals from all of them.Will said the buildings will remain buttoned up for the time being to prevent trespassing and any added deterioration of the badly damaged buildings.The complex, which stands within a stones throw of the highway, dates back to the 19th century when pioneer Charles Mather built the house and the commercial buildings. The house has remained habitable over the years, and was Minneys home for some time.Although the county has yet to decide what to do with the buildings, Will said one possibility is to convert the property into offices and work spaces for the Open Space and Trails program, which oversees a growing network of trails and properties.Other possibilities, he said, include using some of the property for affordable housing or if the county finds it simply cannot use the property for anything but open space the purchase contract reserves the right to sell off some of it for other uses.Any change of use, however, would require considerable governmental review, Will said.
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