Current Aspen City Hall to be given back to community
Council agrees that the armory is for the people, new City Hall for municipal employees
While their level of excitement about the new Aspen City Hall differs from Mayor Torre, all council members agreed Monday that the armory building where the municipal government’s seat is currently located should shift to community use.
What that community use is has yet to be determined and will need a community-wide fleshing out, but it’s in line with a 2015 advisory vote when a majority of Aspenites voted for it to be a community center.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association will likely use a portion of the 19,000-square-foot building on Galena Street for its visitor center and offices.
ACRA is currently located in the old powerhouse on the north side of the Roaring Fork River, off of Mill Street.
That building will house four city departments that can’t fit in the new 37,500-square-foot new City Hall on Rio Grande Place and its adjacent office building where the former Taster’s Pizza was located.
“The fact that we have 6,000 square feet of needs still is disappointing, and we are spending how many millions of dollars to build a new office building?” Torre said during Monday’s work session. “The new office building, I think, is probably smaller than it should be. … It was a lost opportunity, and I am just not as excited as others may be on this.”
He added that this council is stuck with decisions made by previous elected boards, like not adding more office space to the Aspen Police Department building on Main Street.
Torre also shared his disappointment of a previous council walking away from commercial and community use at the powerhouse after threats of lawsuits by nearby neighbors in the Oklahoma Flats neighborhood, a potential bitter election and mounting polarization among Aspenites.
“Like a friend of mine says, ‘It is what it is and we are where we are,’” Torre said.
His fellow council members showed more enthusiasm for the new, voter-approved $48.6 million office building campus.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with how this is done, where we’re fully programming the new offices and freeing up as much space as possible in the armory for community use,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein said. “I always thought that previous councils had basically promised the city community use of the old powerhouse after the fiasco they went through (request for proposals) and seven months of trying to get something in there and then going back to ground zero with nothing approved, so I’ve always gone with the assumption that this shuffle with all the offices is complete. … I am so pleased that we have freed up the armory and can use offices in the powerhouse.”
He, along with the rest of council members, voiced support for some outside use around the powerhouse lawn, whether it’s community events or privates ones.
“I think that is a wonderful gathering area,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards, adding that some serious thought will have to go into how a remodeled armory accommodates new uses. “But otherwise congratulations on the Chinese menu and putting the puzzle pieces together.”
The special events department will move to the old powerhouse, vacating the old 1,000-square-foot Mountain Rescue Aspen cabin on Main Street.
Council members agreed that the historic pan abode-style cabin should be used for city employee rental housing.
The capital asset, information technology and transportation departments will join special events in the powerhouse.
The Rio Grande building next to the new City Hall will house the parking and human resources departments on the third and second floors and a future restaurant on the ground floor, although some council members said they would consider expanding that space to accommodate all departments in one central location.
The new City Hall is expected to be open for business in November, which will house council chambers, additional meeting space and the offices of the city manager, the mayor, city clerk, city attorney, communications, finance, engineering, the building department, environmental health and community development, among other dedicated spaces.
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