Aspen government eyes gutting, remodeling City Hall
The Aspen government is mulling other ways to house its employees instead of erecting a new, 51,900-square-foot City Hall.
A work session is set for July 5 in which the Aspen City Council will look at the potential of gutting and renovating its existing facility, historically known as Armory Hall, said Jack Wheeler, the city’s capital asset director, on Monday.
The city also is looking at buying downtown commercial space to convert it for municipal employee use, he said, declining to identify the properties being pursued.
Public backlash over a new City Hall is the driving force to entertain other options. Also factoring in was Aspen City Council’s decision last week to cut off lease negotiations with the Aspen Power Plant — a multi-use proposal that included a restaurant, bar, TV studio, event planner and office space — to use the city-owned building at 590 N. Mill St.
The two-level, 7,200-square-foot space, known as the Old Power House building, was occupied by the Aspen Art Museum from 1979 until 2014, and most recently was the temporary space for the Pitkin County Library, which is holding a grand opening for its expanded and remodeled permanent facility Sunday.
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“The Power Plant building is available for us, which makes sense for us to put that out there to utilize it,” Wheeler said. “And there was public sentiment against one building, so we’re looking at whatever other options are out there. We thought it would be responsible to talk about other options.”
The city had eyed the one-building concept to house most of its employees, departments and services. It said it needed the space to put the bulk of its services — including the Building and Housing departments, which are located outside of the current City Hall building — in a centralized location.
The plan called for the city vacating its existing City Hall, located at the corner of Galena Street and East Hopkins Avenue, and constructing a new building on the Galena Plaza property currently used by the Rio Grande Building, where Taster’s Pizza is located, and another building occupied by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and the Stay Aspen Snowmass central reservations firm.
Even with prospects dimmed for building a new City Hall, Wheeler said it remains likely the chamber and Stay Aspen Snowmass will be displaced so that the city, which is the landlord for the two entities, can take over their offices.
Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, said the firm has yet to determine its future address.
“With the imminent relocation from our current office space, Stay Aspen Snowmass is evaluating a number of options with its board of directors and stakeholders with the goal of continuing to provide the best possible one-stop shopping and booking experience for year-round visitors to Aspen-Snowmass,” Tomcich said in a prepared statement. “Once we have a decision we will make an announcement to the public. At this time we have nothing definitive to announce.”
The new City Hall had an estimated price of $48.3 million. Councilman Adam Frisch said the so-called multi-roof approach will cost another $10 million.
“Actually, it’s more expensive to remodel than to build a new one,” Frisch said, noting that the city’s acquisition of free-market buildings also would factor into the greater cost.
The fate of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s offices has yet to be determined. Frisch said it possibly could be temporarily stationed in the Old Power House building, which also could house the Parking Department, which is set to be displaced.
“We have a legal commitment to find them a certain amount of office space,” Frisch said of the chamber.
Chamber President Debbie Braun could not be reached Monday.
The Parking Department will lose its space once construction begins for a new 14,900-square-foot headquarters for the Aspen Police Department and a complex with 10 employee-housing units at 540 E. Main St. Those two projects are moving forward and also are up for discussion at the City Council’s July 5 work session.
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