Multitude of public projects expected over the coming years in Pitkin County
Private development projects such as the Aspen Art Museum, the Hyatt Grand Aspen and many others have generated a lot of local attention and discussion over the years, leading many members of the community to speak out against an Aspen that’s increasingly becoming super-sized. More recently, sentiment over the belief that developers are constantly on the hunt for renovation and building opportunities to accommodate third-story luxury penthouses led the Aspen City Council to set new height restrictions in the downtown area in early 2013.
The debate continues not only over projects already completed but also over spaces that have been identified for future development such as the Lift One area and the former Boomerang Lodge property. Opinions vary about the best use for certain underdeveloped areas of town and their untapped potential, while some residents would prefer to see no new projects at all, no matter their size.
In the past year, discussions have widened about local development, but not just with regard to private initiatives. Both the Pitkin County and city of Aspen governments are examining the need for better office spaces with an eye toward constructing new buildings. And debates over expansions of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, the Pitkin County Library and Aspen Valley Hospital have been revived following a brief lull in the action.
With that in mind, The Aspen Times offers the following snapshot of the many public initiatives that are refueling arguments over the need for more local development. Some proposals represent little more than a gleam in the eye of government officials, while others are in deeper planning stages or have already been built.
Here’s the basic rundown:
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Aspen Valley Hospital PHASE III-A
Estimated cost: It’s too early for the hospital to get a precise figure for the cost of its next stage of expansion, Phase III-A. At a November meeting of the hospital’s board of directors, Chief Financial Officer Terry Collins said his “hope” is the cost is between $40 million and $42 million. A firm number should come out this month after the hospital secures a bid for the project. Half of the projected funding will come from donations and the other half from the hospital’s cash reserve.
Project: Construction of Phase III-A, which is set to begin in the spring, will include the construction of a new emergency room, space for diagnostic imaging, surgical services and other improvements. The third and final phases of the four-phase project will add an additional 83,000 square feet to the Castle Creek Road facility. The first and second phases, already completed, included relocation of the same-day surgery and cardiopulmonary departments, renovation of the patient-care unit, a 234-space parking garage, relocation of the kitchen and cafeteria, medical offices and other amenities.
Estimated completion date: 2017 (for Phase III-A).
Aspen-Pitkin County Airport EXPANSION
Estimated cost: $132 million (90 percent from the Federal Aviation Administration and the rest from the aeronautics division of the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Enterprise Fund).
Project: The proposed airport expansion will need to clear multiple hurdles to take fruition. Tentative plans call for moving the runway to the west of the airport, requiring the relocation of about 2,500 feet of Owl Creek Road and the county’s purchase of 1 to 3 acres of Burlingame Ranch, which is owned by the city of Aspen.
In December, the county’s elected officials showed initial support for a layout plan that will go to a public hearing and formal vote by county commissioners some time this year. If the plan is approved, the next step will be an environmental assessment, which would take 18 to 25 months and review a number of potential impacts on the airport from noise, safety, socioeconomic concerns, environmental effects and other possible consequences. Once that’s completed, then a possible public vote for the acquisition of the land would be held.
Supporters of the expansion claim it is vital to the airport’s future and Aspen’s tourist economy. That’s because the maker of CRJ700 regional jets, which account for 95 percent of the airport’s commercial service, plans to phase them out starting in 2018, with the entire generation expected to be grounded by 2025. The airport’s current layout limits wingspans to 95 feet. So in order to meet Federal Aviation Administration guidelines to accommodate larger aircraft, the airport needs to be expanded so it can handle up to 118 feet.
Estimated completion date: 2022.
City of Aspen OFFICES; POLICE DEPARTMENT
Estimated cost: $37 million to $40 million.
Location: City Hall (130 S. Galena St.) and Zupancis Lot (540 E. Main St.).
Project: The city of Aspen is exploring two long-term options for solving its problem of having antiquated offices scattered about different properties as well as complying with a request from the Pitkin County government to move the Aspen Police Department out of the county courthouse by 2018.
The first would include a two-story addition to City Hall and construction of an estimated 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot structure on city-owned property known as the Zupancis Lot that would accommodate the Aspen Police Department and other city operations.
The second option would involve expanding the Galena Plaza and Rio Grande buildings into a new 50,000- to 60,000-square-foot facility for city offices. This option also includes a new 12,000- to 16,000-square-foot police facility, possibly at the Zupancis Lot, and the repurposing of the current City Hall building on South Galena Street for community benefit.
Mayor Steve Skadron has said officials will have to find a way to minimize the impact of future municipal projects.
“It would be unfair to be tough on developers and not on government,” he said.
Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said a new building on the Zupancis site would give the Aspen Police Department “a good, functional space to work with.” Department officials and personnel like the idea, he said.
Recently, some department offices moved to rented space in Obermeyer Place to free up more space in the basement of the Pitkin County Courthouse for various police operations.
City officials are hoping to finance construction using general fund reserves in lieu of some type of tax increase. A project in any form would have to withstand City Council and public scrutiny. Public meetings on the issue will be held in the coming months.
Size: 50,000 square feet to 65,000 square feet of new construction.
Estimated completion date: Late 2018.
Pitkin County Library expansion
Estimated cost: $11.5 million to $13.5 million.
Location: 120 N. Mill St.
Project: A renovated and expanded library that includes a new children’s area, flexible group-study areas, an expanded teen area, a new commons area and a new media laboratory. The library intends to pay for about 5 percent of the project with its own reserves and about 95 percent with private donations. A proposed property tax increase that would have offset the costs of the library’s expansion and future operating expenses was shot down by voters in November 2012.
Size: 7,100 square feet of new construction.
Estimated completion date: 2016.
PITKIN COUNTY OFFICES; SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Estimated cost: Tentative; between $16 million and $20 million.
Location: Courthouse Plaza Building, Pitkin County Courthouse and adjacent space for a new building to house the Sheriff’s Office.
Project: Pitkin County government leaders are discussing plans to redesign and expand the Courthouse Plaza building, where most county government departments are housed. They also are looking to remodel the Pitkin County Courthouse as well as build a new public-safety building to house the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office building could be constructed on available county-owned property between the Courthouse Plaza building and the county jail.
For the past year, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo has publicly lamented the cramped courthouse quarters in which his personnel are headquartered. The longtime need for improved workspaces became especially apparent in early 2014 during the beginning stages of the investigation into the murder of area resident Nancy Pfister.
Also this year, the Pitkin County government asked the city of Aspen to move its Police Department out of the courthouse by 2018. Moving law enforcement out of the courthouse, presumably, would free more space in the building for other county or judicial needs.
Plans, including how to pay for the project, have yet to be publicly vetted. Some of the challenges the county will face with the project include funding, designs, the sequencing of the projects and the temporary relocation of staff and the public during construction.
Size: 17,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet for new Sheriff’s Office building.
Estimated completion date: Late 2018.
Mountain Rescue Aspen’s C.B. Cameron Rescue Center
Estimated cost: $3 million.
Project: Mountain Rescue Aspen operated for almost 50 years out of a historic but cramped cabin on Main Street that offered little more than a gathering place. The old headquarters at 630 W. Main St. had very little parking for response vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles.
The new facility at 37925 Highway 82 is 13,900 square feet. It provides places to park all types of rescue vehicles along with additional gear. Mountain Rescue moved into its new digs late this summer.
The main lobby also will serve as a museum area where rescue memorabilia will be on display. There’s also a primary training room on the main floor that can accommodate 50 people. A locker room provides space for members of the volunteer organization to store clothing and gear for all weather and incident types.
The second floor features a command room as well as an adjacent map and planning area. A three-story tower on the south side of the building allows practice rappelling.
Mountain Rescue Aspen raised the funds to build its new headquarters. The organization isn’t supported by tax funds.
It received a $1.5 million contribution from Lynda Cameron, an Oklahoma resident who was among five people saved by rescuers after a 1977 airplane crash in Pitkin County. Cameron’s father, C.B. Cameron, died in the accident. The other funds came from various contributors.
Estimated completion date: Grand opening was held Sept. 1.
Rubey Park Transit Center
Estimated cost: $7.9 million.
Project: The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and city of Aspen say the Rubey Park bus center near downtown Aspen is out of date and inadequate for today’s public bus traffic. The center opened in 1988. The number of buses and passengers has soared since the facility was constructed.
Rubey Park accommodates roughly 500 bus-trip arrivals and 500 bus-trip departures per day during the peak winter season, according to RFTA. Millions of passengers have passed through the facility.
Rubey Park’s inadequacies are most glaring during the winter. There is little room for passengers to wait indoors for buses. The bathrooms are inadequate year-round.
The remodel will essentially double the size of the existing building, with the clock tower. Two additional buildings will be constructed east and west of the existing building. One will house RFTA staff. The other will provide public bathrooms. The buildings will combine for about 3,800 square feet.
The Rubey Park construction project has a number of funding sources. The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, composed of representatives of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County, is supplying $3.84 million. The city of Aspen and RFTA are supplying $500,000 each. The Federal Highway Administration awarded a $2 million grant, and the Colorado Department of Transportation is issuing a $1 million grant.
Estimated completion date: Construction is anticipated to start in April; the target period for finishing is just prior to the 2015-16 ski season.
Staff writers Rick Carroll, Scott Condon, Karl Herchenroeder and Andre Salvail contributed to this report.
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