Original county building design likely

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

Judging by recent comments from Pitkin County commissioners and staff, the Aspen City Council doesn’t appear likely to get two major design changes members want made to plans for the county’s proposed new administration building.

“It’s appropriate that we address the city’s concerns,” Commissioner George Newman said Tuesday after county board members looked over options for changing a three-story glass curtain marking the new building’s entrance that city planning staff and city councilors have criticized.

“But from what I’ve heard, … we liked the design the community picked,” Newman said. “For me, (options for changing the glass entrance) don’t work.”

The other major design change advocated by the city involves decreasing the height and mass of the proposed 24,000-square-foot addition to the back of the existing county building. City staff has said the 45-foot-high addition will be taller than all of the surrounding building’s, which don’t exceed 38 feet.

However, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock has repeatedly said that isn’t likely to happen.

“That’s going to be the most challenging (city condition) to meet,” Peacock told commissioners last week. “I think we’ve done all the work we can do there.”

That’s because reducing that height and mass would require redesigning the entire building and possibly constructing some of it under Veterans Park next door, which the county has pledged not to do, Peacock said. The 24,000 square feet is down from 52,000 square feet proposed in 2006, making the building as lean as it can get, he said.

“With the sizing of the building, to me we’re getting into competing values,” Peacock said, meaning the county would not be able to adequately offer the services it must provide if it doesn’t get the space the addition promises.

Commissioner Steve Child also told the City Council last week during a marathon presentation and debate about the county building that he believes the Pitkin County Jail will block a “great majority of the addition” when viewed from Rio Grande Place to the north. The county wants to renovate the 17,000-square-foot current Plaza building at 530 Main St. and add both a 24,000-square-foot addition with an 8,000-square-foot underground parking garage. The county submitted its development application for the new building to the city under a state law that requires the city to approve or deny it within 60 days.

The City Council did approve the building last week, but attached conditions that included the height and mass of the addition and the criticism of the glass entrance. However, state law says county commissioners can choose to ignore those conditions with a majority vote overriding them.

Commissioners tentatively set a date of June 13 earlier this week to hold a special meeting about those conditions.

The board also looked at four options Tuesday that would modify the glass entrance. Those options basically presented more prominent bands across the glass that progressively decrease the vertical nature of entrance.

And while Commissioner Michael Owsley was absent, none of the other commissioners liked the options.

“I think (the original design) is beautiful,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “I think the community will appreciate the design.”

Child pulled no punches either.

“That last (option) looked ugly to me,” he said. “I like our original design best.”

Finally, Commissioner Rachel Richards said she could live with the first design option presented Tuesday, which featured green metal bands stretching across the glass. But that doesn’t sound likely to occur.

“I agree with my fellow board members,” she said. “I like our original plan best.”

If commissioners vote to deny the city’s design changes June 13, the county’s construction plan would remain on schedule, Peacock said. That timeline calls for county staff to move out of the building in July and early August and into temporary office space in Basalt, he said.

The building would then be “deconstructed” from about August to December to ensure as much material as possible is reused, Peacock said. Renovation and construction would take the next 20 to 24 months, with completion set for about the end of summer of 2018, he said.

However, if that June 13 vote doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world, Peacock said. Commissioners need to be comfortable with the final design plans before moving forward, he said.


Genstar’s Jean-Pierre Conte sued in Aspen by ex-girlfriend Hillary Thomas

The former girlfriend of Jean-Pierre Conte, the chairman and managing director of the private equity firm Genstar Capital, filed suit Thursday in Aspen claiming that Conte committed assault, battery, and violated the terms of a 2021 separation agreement. Hillary Thomas claims in her lawsuit that during her more than nine years with Conte, she helped parent his four children and her two children “whom they raised in a blended family.”

See more