Letter: Let the public decide
November 18, 2014
The city of Aspen is looking at the Rio Grande Building as temporary offices for possibly the Engineering Department or Planning Department (presently in the old Armory building) while the city plans a 70,000-square-foot building to house all its offices in a new civic center. We feel that since this would be only temporary housing, there are other city locations and sites in town that should be used before eliminating the current community uses in the Rio Grande Building. The Rio Grande Building has been a great community asset used over the years on an ongoing basis by small community nonprofits, such as Aspen Community Social Dance, the Hudson Reed Theater Ensemble, the Aspen Fringe Festival, Alcoholic Anonymous, Taster's restaurant, county commissioner meetings, workout sessions, private seminars and private parties. This is the only asset in town for such community use.
The Aspen City Council will be deciding whether to use the Rio Grande Building as temporary offices for the soon-to-be-displaced Engineering Department or the Community Development staff at City Hall in the Armory building on Galena.
We feel there are many other properties in town that the city owns where uses for temporary offices should be explored before the City Council decides to remove the existing uses at the Rio Grande. Such temporary places are — much like Country Day School did when the new school was being built — the parking lot of the Red Brick Building or playground of the Yellow Brick Building with temporary trailers for government employees. Better yet, use the unused, newly constructed Fire Department next to Colorado Mountain College at the Aspen Business Center, which has been standing empty for years after taxpayers built it. And better yet, why not use, for the time being, the old power plant vacated by the art museum for city departments? This would save the taxpayers $300,000 to $600,000, according to Neil Siegel's letter to the editor ("Proposals are all inferior," Nov. 17, The Aspen TImes).
The Rio Grande Building has been used by small nonprofits on a regular basis for over a decade. This is not underutilized public space, for it is the only space for such public events and small nonprofits. At the very least, the City Council should not rush into giving up public space within the Rio Grande Building without taking it to a public vote — even for temporary use of government offices.
Junee Kirk, Kent Hudson Reed (Hudson Reed Theatre Ensemble), David Ledingham (Aspen Fringe Festival Theatre), Bert Myrin, Shirley Millard, Dan Mahon and Rich Pearce