New Aspen City Hall budget plugged in for high tech improvements
The opening of the new Aspen City Hall has been delayed by at least a month due to COVID-19 issues, along with modest budget increases for the nearly $49 million project.
Aspen City Council heard during a work session Tuesday that the 37,500-square-foot building is scheduled to be fully open around Thanksgiving.
Schedule delays are related to the initial shutdown last March, as well as crew quarantines and limited manpower working within Pitkin County COVID public health order guidelines at 50% capacity, according to Rob Schober, the city’s capital asset project manager.
City staff has contained the financial implications of the delays within the project’s contingency fund and is working to minimize any further impacts moving forward, Schober said.
The initial 30-day shutdown cost an additional $39,000.
COVID delays have left the project with a limited contingency of $267,769 heading into the final stages of construction, although the city is through the periods of highest risk, according to Schober.
Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she recognizes the impact COVID has caused on the project and on the industry.
“The COVID delays in construction were real, and that is a big part of what has hit and reduced the contingency down to where it is,” she said.
The project’s general contractor, Shaw Construction, has put the city on notice that another $60,000 and 30 days in delays may occur in the future.
Staff and construction crews estimate that those risks include how long the design of Galena Plaza in front of the building will take, or supply chain issues such as the recent storms in Texas.
“There are a lot of raw material suppliers down there on the Gulf Coast and so for instance, you can’t find plastic electrical boxes right now anywhere and we’re really unsure what those impacts might be moving forward,” Schober said.
The more significant cost increase to the project is the full audiovisual package council selected Tuesday at the recommendation of staff.
Part of the reason for the additional expense is the substantial change of moving council chambers to the new building after the guaranteed maximum price was set.
In September 2019, the majority of council, with Mayor Torre in the minority at the time, decided to change the location of the seat of government to the Galena city offices building.
The AV set up chosen Tuesday will allow the public, staff, elected officials and presenters to fully participate either onsite or remotely.
“It’s going to give us the flexibility we need moving forward,” Schober said. “Knowing how we’ve operated for the last year in a public health crisis that would definitely go to good use; it’s forward thinking.”
The AV system will accommodate the entire third floor, which will be dedicated to council chambers, a civic lobby, a multi-purpose room and the city clerk’s office.
“By far, the build out of the technology for the new council chambers is the most elaborate and expensive component of the building,” Schober wrote in a memo to council.
The second floor is dedicated to the finance, quality and communications departments, along with city manager and city attorney’s offices.
The bottom floor, or at street level, is dedicated to the engineering and building departments.
Next door, the renovated Rio Grande Building will house the human resources and environmental health departments.
A restaurant space, formerly occupied by Taster’s Pizza, will be built out as a white box space for a future restaurateur, Schober said.
Financed by certificates of participation, the two projects are estimated to cost $34.5 million, with a $48.6 million payback, according to City Finance Director Pete Strecker.
What’s out of the plan for redevelopment of city offices is the armory building, which currently serves as City Hall.
City officials last year decided to postpone the roughly $12 million renovation as COVID financial concerns came to bear.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association, which has been a tenant of the city for years, was planned to move from its temporary location at the old powerhouse along the Roaring Fork River to a renovated armory building.
But those plans are on hold while council determines where ACRA should operate from and what community uses will be brought into the armory.
Council members Tuesday expressed their desire to return that building back to the public to be used as a gathering place. In the past it has served as a rolling skating rink and dance hall, among other uses.
Torre said he has come around to the idea of returning the armory to a community center, even though he was against moving council chambers in the past.
While council plans for the future of the armory building, it’s likely the parking, IT and utility billing departments operate from there.
Councilman Ward Hauenstein said if council chambers had remained in the armory, the same AV system would be needed in future years.
The renovations and additional offices are designed to provide adequate space for city employees to work and centralized locations for the public.
Currently, municipal employees are working in cramped office space in City Hall, or are spread throughout town in rented buildings that cost the local government more than $500,000 a year.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
What’s the Big Deal runs Mondays is based on the prior week’s most expensive property transaction recorded in the Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder’s Office.