Aspen’s old ambulance building renovation will free up long-term employee housing

Aspen Valley Hospital will use nearby facility as short-term option for visiting doctors, nurses

Aspen Valley Hospital plans to renovate the old Aspen Ambulance District building, which will translate into more long-term employee housing availability for hospital staff, sources said this week.

The hospital agreed Wednesday to pay Pitkin County nearly $529,000 for the deteriorating building, which it will turn into approximately 12 temporary housing units for visiting doctors, nurses and technicians, said Steve Selby, AVH project manager.

Once completed, the short-term housing will open up about the same number of Aspen-area housing units AVH owns and have been used for the temporary quarters, for hospital staff members in need of long-term housing, he said.

“It’s a dream for us to have this available,” Selby said Thursday. “We’re always looking for additional employee housing.”

Aspen Valley Hospital owns about 70 housing units throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, including those at Castle Creek Meadows across from the hospital in the Castle Creek Valley and others at the Beaumont Lodge on Aspen’s east side, he said. However, it’s “becoming a recurring nightmare” to recruit employees amid an increasingly tight housing market, and more housing is continually needed, Selby said.

While he said the hospital is not short-staffed, there were numerous openings for positions advertised on AVH’s website last week, from kitchen staff to nurses and doctors.

“This is huge for us,” Selby said.

On Wednesday, Pitkin County commissioners convened as the Aspen Ambulance District Board and approved AVH plans to buy the old ambulance building — located on the hill just above the hospital — for $528,733. The district built the building in 1995 on property owned by the hospital and entered in to a 50-year lease.

The deteriorating Aspen Ambulance District “barn” has been sitting empty since 2019 and will be renovated into temporary quarters for visiting Aspen Valley Hospital staff. The building’s gutter, pictured near the center of the photo, recently fell off (Jason Auslander/The Aspen Times).

The ambulance district, however, long ago outgrew the old ambulance barn, which had become too small to house modern ambulances and too decrepit for staff. Paramedics and district staff moved in to a new $8 million building next to the Pitkin County Health and Human Services Building across from the hospital in 2019.

Since then, the old ambulance “barn” has continued to deteriorate. The roof is shot, septic and sewer lines need to be replaced, it is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and just recently the gutter fell off, said Rich Englehart, deputy Pitkin County manager.

“It’s a worn-out building,” Englehart told commissioners Wednesday.

The money AVH will pay for the building will be placed in the county’s capital fund, said Jon Peacock, county manager.

Once the sale of the building becomes official April 13, AVH plans to move forward quickly with renovations, Selby said.

“We’ll hit on it right away,” he said. “We’re hoping this summer to be in for a permit and get it under construction as quickly as possible.”

The building will be converted into as many as 12 rooms with bathrooms and kitchenettes for staff who come from other areas to work for short periods of time. It was still unclear last week how much the renovations will cost, he said.

“We know it will be a sizable investment,” Selby said. “But with the cost of employee housing here in town, it will definitely be a bargain.”