The Aspen Music Festival and School has agreed to an arrangement that allows Burlingame and Marolt Ranch seasonal-housing tenants to remain in their units through May — effectively giving them an extra month beyond their April 30 lease expiration to shelter in place amid the coronavirus spread.
Alan Fletcher, AMFS president and CEO, said the decision was made in light of the fact that the first summer concert won’t be held until July 16, two weeks later than originally scheduled. An announcement of the postponement was made last week. As the situation now stands, festival programming will span six weeks, from July 16 to Aug. 23, and all previously scheduled events before mid-July have been canceled.
Email and phone discussions about letting tenants stay through May — the residents will still be responsible for paying rent that month — were held Monday and Tuesday by all of the involved parties, including AMFS staff, the city of Aspen and two property management entities. The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority manages the city’s Marolt seasonal units located off Castle Creek Road and private entity Preferred Property Management Services Inc. manages the Burlingame seasonal units at Harmony Place, which are owned by a nonprofit-city partnership.
In a normal year, the winter-season tenants leave Burlingame and Marolt at the end of April so that property managers can take the month of May to ready the units for music students and the event’s summer staff. An AMFS spokesperson said Tuesday that the festival and school take up 92 units at Burlingame, which have two bedrooms per apartment unit, and 95 units at Marolt, dormitory-styled housing that consists of three beds per unit. AMFS leases the lion’s share of both properties every year for three months starting on June 1.
“Because we know that we’re not going to be in there as early as we would normally be — mid-June at the earliest — we’ve signaled to [the property managers] that tenants can continue through May,” Fletcher said.
With the new arrangement, the property managers will still get time — most of June — to ready the properties for the July-August festival and school participants. Fletcher expressed hope that the COVID-19 situation will subside to the point at which it’s safe to travel and congregate in public by the time the truncated festival is set to open.
Like most everyone else in the community, AMFS is taking steps aimed at helping to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus spread so that there is no surge in cases that overwhelms local health care providers, he said. Postponing the summer program to a mid-July start is an example of that.
“One thing that I have said privately a lot and I’ll say [now] is that we are monitoring this day to day, week to week — it changes so fast — and we’re not going to do anything that’s unsafe for people,” Fletcher said. “We are ready with any contingencies. At the same time, if it is safe, then we should proceed, because it’s hugely important for what makes Aspen, Aspen. If we can put something on stage, we’re going to put something on stage, and if we can’t, we can’t.”
APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky said leaseholders of 15 units at Marolt have asked to remain through May. Burlingame so far has about 30 leaseholders who would prefer to remain through May, and some have expressed a desire to remain longer, according to sources close to the situation.
Kosdrosky said even with the extension, APCHA staff will have plenty of time in early June to get the Marolt units ready for incoming students later that same month or in early July.
“We got an email that the city supports the extension, so that’s good news from our point of view. I have direction now,” he said, adding that the information will be passed along to tenants.
“I understand and sympathize with where the tenants are coming from,” Kosdrosky added. “As the property manager of Marolt, APCHA was open to an extension.”
Renters in need of financial help with rent in May can contact Pitkin County, which has established an emergency economic-assistance fund to help local residents and workers with housing and food costs, Kosdrosky noted. An online form, which officials recommend as the first step toward obtaining relief, is available at pitkincounty.com. Seasonal units at Burlingame and Marolt rent for $1,264 per month.
The issue of seasonal renters wanting an extension came up quickly, Kosdrosky said. The Aspen Daily News received a letter late last week from a tenant who bemoaned the plan to hold leaseholders to the April 30 move-out deadline to accommodate music school students — youths who may or may not be coming this summer, depending on the extent of the public health crisis.
The writer asked for anonymity.
“As we are all well aware, these are not normal times,” the tenant wrote. “Food & Wine has already been canceled, as well as the Aspen Ideas Festival.” The writer suggested that going forward with the music festival could be misguided and expressed concern for Burlingame neighbors who work in front-line, essential service jobs.
“I am worried by the willingness to disperse a large group of potentially exposed individuals back into our community,” the tenant continued. “At a time when companies are being defined by their response to this crisis, I find it both short-sighted and incredibly irresponsible to not encourage current residents to remain where they are.”
On a separate note, Kosdrosky said that an extremely small number of renters at city-owned Truscott Place and Aspen Country Inn, representing nine units, have requested rental assistance through the county. Both of those properties, which total 236 units, are managed by APCHA.