Like public and staff, commissioners choose tradition
December 16, 2015
Pitkin County commissioners went along with the public and county staff Tuesday and chose the most traditional design option for a new $22 million county building.
Architect Bill Poss and others involved in designing the building presented four commissioners with four options Tuesday, which county staff and the public have already had the chance to comment on.
The current 17,000-square-foot building at 530 E. Main St. will be gutted and rebuilt. Initially, county officials thought it had been classified as a historic structure, though that doesn't appear to be the case, said Jon Peacock, county manager.
Plans also call for a 23,000-square-foot addition to be constructed behind the current county building, with a single-level, 8,000-square-foot, 12-space parking garage underneath it.
The first option incorporated vertical brick elements to the building, an entryway feature at the sidewalk and other elements that tie it to the Pitkin County Courthouse next door. Option two was the most contemporary design and featured smooth sandstone, solar panels on the roof and a lot of glass and metal elements.
The third option also was contemporary and featured a perforated metal screen attached to the outside of the building to act as a screen and a design element. Option four took the most cues from the courthouse and featured a mansard roof on the new part of the building similar to the courthouse, as well as sandstone and horizontal windows.
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Thirty members of the public attended open house sessions earlier this month and ranked the four options, according to documents handed out at Tuesday's work session. The fourth came in first with 42 percent of that vote, followed by the second option with 33 percent. County employees also ranked the fourth option highest, with 44 percent of the 62 who responded voting for that option and 24 percent each for options one and two.
Officials found that the first option would be cheapest to build, though it came in second as the most energy efficient. The fourth option will likely cost between $300,00 and $500,000 more to build, though it is the most energy efficient, according to documents distributed at Tuesday's meeting.
The second option would be the most expensive to build — probably $1 million more than the first option — and was the least energy efficient despite the inclusion of solar panels because of the amount of glass. The third option would cost about as much to build as the fourth, though it was not as energy efficient, according to the documents.
Commissioners eventually made it clear they favored option four, though they made a few requests for changes.
First, none like the mansard roof on the new building because they though it looked too much like the courthouse.
Commissioner Patti Clapper asked to include an entryway, which wasn't included in the original plans, as well as a covered walkway leading to the building's entrance. She said she thought the fourth option presented a "better sense of permanence."
"I'm excited," Clapper said. "I think it's great."
Commissioner Rachel Richards wanted more energy efficiency in the building and suggested solar panels be included on the roof or in other places. Richards also said it was "critical" for the building's entryway not to pull attention away from Veteran's Park, located between the county building and the courthouse.
Commissioner George Newman initially gravitated toward the first option, but said he'd go for the fourth option if designers ditched the mansard roof, added smooth sandstone elements and provided a different entryway.
For his part, Commissioner Michael Owsley said he didn't really care about the outside of the building.
"Buildings from the exterior don't really matter to me," he said. "It's what you get inside."
He said he liked the first option because it was the "least remarkable," and didn't like the fourth because it was similar to the courthouse but without that building's "authenticity."
The interior is not significantly affected by the exterior designs.
Now, designers will concentrate on tweaking the fourth concept and incorporating the suggestions made by commissioners. They hope to have plans done by April, a building permit by August and county employees moving back in to the new building in fall 2017, said David Detweiler, a construction consultant hired by the county.
Many county employees who don't work for departments that interact regularly with the public will move to a space yet to be determined in Basalt, Peacock said. Others, like the clerk and recorder and elections bureau, will move to other office space in town.