Aspen voters will soon decide Armory building’s future |

Aspen voters will soon decide Armory building’s future

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

In November, Aspen voters will determine the future of the Armory building — where City Hall is currently located — following the city of Aspen relocation to Galena Street.

The ballot question will read, “Which use for the Aspen Armory site (current City Hall) do you prefer for a long-range, 50-year plan? (Choose only one.)”

Voters will have the option to choose between “Community/Public Use” or “City Offices.”

If the Armory building continues to house some city of Aspen offices, the Galena plaza will be 20,000 fewer square feet, city Capital Asset Director Jack Wheeler said.

If the community votes to use the building as a community-use site, Galena will house all of the city’s offices and the Armory building will return to its original use as a community center.

One group in town has big ideas for the space.

Composed of longtime Aspen residents, the Armory Hall Restoration Committee is commited to returning the historic building “to its former glory” as a multiuse communal center and meeting space.

The committee contracted Aspen’s Darnauer Group Marketing & PR to help plan and campaign for the project.

The Armory building served as a community center in Aspen for 65 years — from 1892 until it became City Hall in 1957 — Darnauer Group Marketing & PR principal Jeanette Darnauer said.

In converting the building to this purpose, the group proposes combining the second and third floors into a large space for “whatever the community wants,” Darnauer said.

This may include anything from a space for concerts, lectures, political gatherings and community dances to pot-luck fundraisers, a wintertime farmers market, proms, roller-skating, basketball games and more.

The basement and first floor would offer further meeting spaces with park access.

“It really would be designed and operating to meet community-specific needs,” Darnauer said. “It’s not a dedicated use for one nonprofit or any one entity.”

Darnauer said she’s met and discussed the possibility of a community center with about 40 community members, including local business owners and residents alike.

“The majority of the people I’ve talked to have really liked the idea of turning it back into a community center and having the space for communal use,” Darnauer said, adding that the group intends to step up its outreach and campaign efforts from now until Election Day.

As far as the additional 20,000 square feet that will be added to the Galena plaza if the Armory building is converted into a community center, Darnauer said, “I don’t think it will be much of a visual impact because from downtown, it’s only one story.”

Former Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland also supports the Armory building as a community center.

“I think it’s a good proposal because fiscally, it’s actually cheaper to consolidate things in one building,” Ireland said.

Ireland also said he thinks an active community-type center located near the core would enhance the downtown experience and create a more pedestrian-oriented corridor.

“This would take you away from just circling the mall the way people do now,” Ireland said, adding that the core is currently dedicated largely to shopping, eating and drinking.

“Having worked in government for a long time, I believe in staff face-to-face contact rather than emails, phone calls and tweets from one building to another,” he said. “I don’t think the current arrangement of staff scattered around town is building teamwork or serving the public.”