No Taj Mahal at the tree farm |

No Taj Mahal at the tree farm

Political observers were convinced that Eagle County was prepared to build a midvalley office building that resembled the Taj Mahal, but it turned out to be a misunderstanding fueled by a draft contract.

While negotiating with the Aspen-based Gibson Reno Architects for planning and design of an office building at the Mount Sopris Tree Farm, county officials circulated a contract internally to use as a working document.

The model was an actual contract from a different project – the design and construction of a maintenance facility at the Eagle County Airport. The contract for that project was awarded earlier this spring for $11.5 million.

That figure stayed in the draft contract for the tree farm office building and eventually leaked to the public. Perceptions were that Eagle County was following the footsteps of Jefferson County, which built a huge office building dubbed the Taj Mahal a few years ago.

Jefferson County’s offices, visible from Interstate 70 near Golden, angered voters and led to the ouster of two of the three county commissioners.

No such reaction is likely over the tree farm project.

County Administrator Jim Hartmann tracked down the source of the confusion, realizing the $11.5 million in the tree farm office building draft contract was left over from a previous contract.

In reality, Eagle County is negotiating a contract of about $325,000 with Gibson Reno. That would cover planning and design of the offices, landscaping, traffic studies and shepherding the project through the government review process, according to Rich Cunningham, director of facilities management for Eagle County.

The actual construction of the office building is expected to cost between $1.8 million and $2.4 million, Cunningham said. So the design and construction could cost as much as $2.75 million.

The county hopes to finalize the contract with Gibson Reno in the next few weeks. A Planned Unit Development application for the entire tree farm property, including recreational facilities, will be submitted sometime this summer. Then public hearings will begin.

Design and construction of the office building could cost as much as $2.75 million.

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