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Commission expands historic downtown survey work

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

Carbondale officials have begun the process of adding to a five-year-old survey of the historic homes still existing in the downtown area, as part of the Carbondale Historic Preservation Commission’s (CHCP) ongoing work to preserve as much as possible of the town’s architectural legacy.

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The CHPC this week issued a “request for proposals” from firms interested in updating the 2010 Historic Resource survey, which was conducted by Aspen-based Suzannah Reid, of Reid Architects, Inc.

The 2010 survey, which Reid said cost approximately $11,000, identified and catalogued 20 historic homes in town and contains a lively summary of the early history of the Roaring Fork River Valley and Carbondale in particular.

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Reid also conducted a 2006 survey that identified 29 historic commercial structures.

But as of this week, she told The Sopris Sun on Monday, Reid had not applied to take on the proposed survey update.

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According to CHCP member Ashley Allis, who works for Design Workshop in Aspen, the commission hopes the survey will be at least partly funded by grants from the Colorado Historical Society, which also contributed to the costs of the previous two surveys.

Allis confirmed that the proposed survey is “building” on the earlier survey work, and that the commission hopes to add at least 20 historic homes to the 20 that were identified in the 2010 survey.

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“There’s still more work to be done,” she said of the surveys conducted so far and the one now being planned.

The current chair of the CHCP, Dana Ganssle, has been with the commission since she moved to town in 2008, when the late Ron Robertson was still on the commission.

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Robertson, who lived in a historic log cabin on Garfield Avenue, was a founder of the CHPC, the author of the town’s advisory historic design guidelines that remain in use, and an acknowledged expert in Carbondale historical information.

Ganssle said the commission, made up of six volunteer members, expects to apply for the state grant in October, “which is why we’re starting to do our research now.”

In the 2010 survey, Reid included a list of recommendations, advising, “The slowdown in the economy (due to the Great Recession of 2008-2009) has given a reprieve to some at-risk buildings and has potentially delayed the preservation of others.”

The idea, Reid indicated, was to keep collecting information on the town’s historic homes and other structures, with an eye toward preservation in the face of what she anticipated as increasing redevelopment pressures once the effects of the recession begin to recede.

Ganssle noted that the CHPC is not a regulatory body backed by city codes and regulations — “We can only make recommendations” — although the town’s historic preservation ordinance does contain a provision allowing the CHPC to delay a demolition permit for 30 days in cases involving a historic property. The ordinance also requires owners of historic properties to make a presentation of redevelopment plans to the commission early in the review process.

“It gives us some time to work with the town and a property owner to try to come up with a new plan,” she said.

Historic designation

The 2010 survey identified two local homes deemed eligible for historic designation on the National Historic Register, and the 2006 commercial-buildings survey identified one Main Street building, the Odd-Fellows Hall, as eligible for the same kind of designation.

One of Reid’s recommendations in the 2010 document was to pursue those historic designations as soon as possible to avoid further changes to the buildings or possible demolition due to development pressures.

She also noted that the 2010 survey identified 14 homes that are “candidates for local landmark status,” a designation that she said also should be pursued.

In the upcoming survey, Ganssle said, one goal is to survey homes in the Weaver Addition at the north side of town, in keeping with a recommendation from the 2010 survey.

Ganssle said the hope is to add another 20 historic homes to the town’s inventory.

“Historic preservation is both looking back and looking forward,” she said of the philosophy behind the CHPC’s work, explaining that it is an attempt to at least create a record of the town’s beginnings, architecturally speaking, in order that future generations will have a base of historic knowledge about the town’s early years.

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