Aspen City Council green lights progress on child education center, pauses housing on project |

Aspen City Council green lights progress on child education center, pauses housing on project

Schematic designs for the Burlingame early childhood education center.
Courtesy of city of Aspen

The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.

Jennifer Phelan, the development manager with the Asset Management Department, presented updates on estimated staffing and child-care capacity needs at the facility and the unit density cap laid out by the Burlingame Ranch HOA. Staff also sought consent for a change order of $87,133 to account for the expanded scope.

The original scope for the project was 12,000 square feet. Since the last work session when the council selected the “Hillside” concept, staff found the need for about 6,000 more square feet. 

City Manager Sara Ott said those funds come from the Kids First fund. 

“The more you change the design over time you add costs to it,” Phelan said. 

The early childhood education center building, which will be about 13,500 square feet across two lots, will hold seven classrooms and need three teachers per room, plus three administrative employees. That amounts to at least 24 staff members.

Staff estimates that 110-525 children are currently on wait lists for child care in Pitkin County, which translates to a need for 11-50 classrooms. The wide range is due to the assumption that children are on more than one wait list.

Kids First co-directors Megan Monaghan and Nancy Nichols presented an update on a regional child-care wait list online platform earlier in the work session. The Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Council signed a contract with BridgeCare to implement an online wait list in early 2023.

Phelan also included a revised cost estimate for the project with the expanded scope. The original estimated cost for the Hillside concept was $20,244,999, to be completed in October 2024.

A table that breaks down the estimated costs of each part of the Burlingame Early Childhood Education project. (Courtesy of city of Aspen)

Council members then expressed hesitancy at the cost of the project.

“If there’s 18,000 square feet to work with here and we were going to have to go to the master HOA, I would want to utilize more of that for housing and and a smaller footprint for the ECE,” said Mayor Torre.

The Burlingame HOA will be involved in the process in many phases, but two include the housing units in the project will require 100% approval among the nearly 200 members of the HOA.

Council members said they wanted to get that unanimous approval before moving forward with schematic designs for the housing component.

“I do want to see this continue to move forward but I want to see more complete information and more engagement with the HOA,” said council member Skippy Mesirow. “I don’t have the concern about square footage. If we’re going to do something, let’s do something that’s going to last and I think the designs are really great.”

The council directed staff to move forward with a land use application and entitlement process for Building A, the early childhood education center, and gather more information on Building B, the housing units. Staff expects to be ready to present more information in three to six months.

The Burlingame early childhood education center project is a result of request for proposal from the Aspen City Council.