City advisers: Fire station should move to Main Street
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Aspen Fire Protection District ought to move its fire station to Main Street, according to a group of civic advisers.
The group voted 16-0 Wednesday, with one member abstaining, in favor of seeing the department’s headquarters relocate to the Zupancis property on Main Street.
The move appears to make sense for the future needs of the fire department, and its existing Hopkins Avenue locale has great potential for other civic uses, according to the Civic Center Master Plan Advisory Committee.
The committee was formed some three years ago to look at future use of various publicly owned properties. The City Council recently asked it to convene specifically to make a recommendation on the future location of the fire station.
Officials with the fire district have struggled to reach a decision, after weighing the potential the two sites offer for future operation/expansion and what Fire Chief Darryl Grob calls the “social capital component.”
There is a special tie to the community that some department members fear will be lost if the fire station is moved out of the core to the Zupancis parcel, he said. The property is next to the courthouse annex, where Hunter and Main streets intersect.
The department isn’t sure how the public feels about it being at one location versus the other, Grob added. The committee, at least, gave the chief an idea of what one segment of community feels on the topic.
The “culture” of the fire department, and its role within the community fabric, will endure at either site, several committee members concluded. That said, they virtually all agreed that the Zupancis parcel makes better sense for the department’s future needs and ability to get its trucks onto Main Street quickly.
With plans for the nearby Obermeyer Place development and talk of a new visitor’s center on Main Street, the fire station could be major player in an area that will see increased vitality, some noted.
“It’s about the people, it’s not about the building,” said Brian Pettet, director of public works for Pitkin County. The culture of the department can flourish at the new site, which provides better opportunities for its future, he said.
“I think the ability to adapt and be resilient is something the fire district has in spades,” added Sue Smedstad. “I think you’ll come out just fine.”
“You know, I love it where it is,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, “but I think the future compels us to say Main Street is a better place.”
The Hopkins Avenue site has been mentioned as a possible new home for the Aspen Art Museum. The property should not be sold, but should be redeveloped to enhance the city’s cultural offerings, said Harley Baldwin, who owns the building across the street.
“One of the things I think we could have more strength in is the visual arts,” he said.
Whatever replaces the fire station, it has to be “something significant and civic,” agreed Stan Clauson, a local planner. “If it’s simply vacated and put up for sale, I think we’ve missed a real opportunity.”
If the fire department decides it wants the Zupancis parcel, it shouldn’t feel rushed to move out, said City Councilwoman Rachel Richards.
“It’s not saying, there’s a time line and you have to accomplish this in the next 48 months,” she said.
The city purchased the Zupancis property last year for $3 million with money borrowed from its housing fund. The council has not yet decided whether or not it expects the fire district to reimburse the city for the purchase price. The city already owns the land occupied by the existing fire station.
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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