Less is more on Aspen’s Galena Plaza
City Council opts for simple open space with limited amenities near new City Hall until more money and a desire to build it out are found
As costs have tripled on the potential build-out of Galena Plaza, Aspen City Council members agreed Tuesday to start with the basics of a lawn and sidewalks.
That will allow the new 37,500-square-foot new City Hall building the egress paths required by code to receive a certificate of occupancy.
The space will remain flexible until money is found in the city budget to finish off the open space in more detail.
The original plan was estimated to cost around $900,000 but a group of citizens convinced council in 2019 to reconsider the space so it could provide a strong connection to Rio Grande Park, the Roaring Fork River and downtown.
Adding all of the amenities, like vegetation, permanent shade structures, seating and an amphitheater, brought the price tag to $4 million.
That estimate includes some components that will be in the interim plan using the existing plaza landscaping budget, which is projected at $500,000, according to Mike Tunte, the city’s landscape architect and construction manager.
Council members asked that some temporary seating and shade structures be placed in the space when it’s ready for it to used by the public.
“Just something to add a little bit more interest to that area,” Councilwoman Ann Mullins said during Tuesday’s work session. “We want to see how it’s going to be used by the people in the new building and people that are coming across going to Rio Grande, and I’m afraid that large expanse of lawn will just be a walk-through area, and we won’t get the information we are looking for in terms of how this can be utilized.”
With the new building slated to open this November, Galena Plaza also will be ready in a limited capacity.
Staff will have the contractor install sidewalks, sod and complete the tie-in from the existing plaza to the new building and green space this fall.
That work should stay within the amount budgeted in the city’s asset management plan fund and also will allow for the least amount of rework if and when council wants to proceed with the more robust landscape design for the area, Tunte said.
“I appreciate this approach,” Mayor Torre said. “It may have come about because of necessity, but I appreciate this approach meaning that I don’t think that we need to highly program or really add so much so quickly as we need to find out what is going to make this work, and I think this is a step in that direction.
“I’m actually glad to see that we can get some of the lines drawn before we start coloring in with colors.”
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Former Aspen Skiing Co. executive and Aspen city councilman Derek Johnson has been released from state prison and is currently residing at a halfway house.