Aspen City Council backs $37 million plan that includes City Hall upgrade |

Aspen City Council backs $37 million plan that includes City Hall upgrade

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

With city employees facing a 50,000-square-foot shortfall in space needs, the Aspen City Council on Tuesday gave its support for an estimated $37 million plan that calls for a two-story addition to City Hall as well as the construction of two new buildings on Main Street.

The Aspen Police Department, which is expected to vacate its Pitkin County space on Main Street by early 2018, needs about 15,000 square feet. The future of City Hall operations and various city departments also is in flux.

The council discussed three different options, one of which would’ve meant moving City Hall and city operations into a new 60,000-square-foot space on Main Street. The council majority gave its support for keeping City Hall where it is while adding two stories. That plan also includes a 15,000-square-foot police facility and a 13,300-square-foot city facility constructed at the Zupancis property, a small parcel of land next to the county’s Courthouse Plaza building on Main Street.

Councilman Dwayne Romero said he has a strong bias toward maintaining the current City Hall location, which Mayor Steve Skadron and Councilman Adam Frisch agreed with. Skadron remarked that he’s not in favor of building a 60,000-square-foot “monument” on Main Street, adding that the consensus option speaks to the historical value of City Hall, which was built in 1892.

However, the option calling for a 63,000-square-foot property to be built at Zupancis remains a possibility. Councilwoman Ann Mullins said that was her preference because it puts various city departments together and maximizes efficiency. She also noted that an addition to City Hall would face architectural difficulties.

“It would be difficult to add an addition and retain the integrity of this building and its context,” she said. “I think we should go with (the option) which has everybody working together on Main Street and ready to serve the public.”

Romero said he doesn’t disagree that the project would face difficulties, while Frisch said he thinks a “humble, organic” addition is possible at City Hall.

Project manager Jack Wheeler said that if there’s public backlash, the city will know immediately. As he put it, the first option is the preferred plan, the option Mullins favored remains open, and the public will be invited to offer input in the future. However, the city will ultimately decide the plan.

“If we want to show that we looked at (the other option), as well, just so that it’s out there, I think that’s a great thing,” Wheeler said. “But I don’t think we want to get into a situation where we’re putting this out there as, ‘Which one do you like better?’”

Budget analysis shows that the design for the Police Department would cost $1.7 million, while construction, scheduled for 2016 through 2018, is estimated at $9.5 million. Design for the city buildings comes in at $3.9 million, while construction, scheduled for 2016 through 2019, is estimated at $22 million.

In other business

The council on Tuesday also gave its support for an estimated $3 million remodel of the Wheeler Opera House’s second floor.

The Wheeler has undergone two major projects in the past three years, with a $2.8 million first-floor remodel in 2011 and a $3 million balcony and technology upgrade in 2013.

The latest project, scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015 and conclude before the new year, would mean a complete demolition and remodeling of the second floor. The layout of the floor is dictated by a massive vault used originally for Jerome Wheeler’s commercial-banking operation. By removing the vault and integrating the vault door, the Wheeler sees opportunities to add backstage space, a coat check, a warming kitchen for caterers and a large lobby area. The plan also calls for a box-office remodel.