Pitkin County Courthouse facade altered for disabled access

A construction crew has been cutting into the facade of the Pitkin County Courthouse this week in order to improve access for the disabled into the 140-year-old building.

The work is part of a $5 million renovation of the building meant to make it more of a traditional courthouse with security screening and added safety features.

After 12 weeks of construction on the basement and first-floor levels, crews this week began converting a basement window to the right of the main entrance into a door that will be able to accommodate a lift for disabled visitors, said Jodi Smith, Pitkin County’s facilities manager. They erected a tarp-tent outside the window, removed the window frame Tuesday and began cutting away some of the stone Wednesday, she said.

Crews removed a large lilac bush in front of the window weeks ago in preparation for this week’s construction.

Once complete, the lift will carry disabled courthouse visitors up to the new security screening station just inside the building’s main entrance off of Main Street. The county must purchase X-ray screeners and metal detectors for the new entrance, which will become the only publicly accessible way into the building once the renovations are complete.

The stage was set for the renovation in the summer of 2018, when the Aspen Police Department moved out of the basement, and numerous county offices, including the sheriff, treasurer and assessor, moved out of their longtime first-floor office suites. Police moved to a dedicated new building two doors down on Main Street, while the county offices moved into the renovated Pitkin County building next door.

Construction crews have been building a new courtroom in the courthouse basement, and renovating three office suites on the first floor for the court clerk’s staff, the District Attorney’s Office and the probation department.

Sometime this spring — perhaps March or April — crews will move to the second floor for the rest of the renovations, which are scheduled to be complete by July or August, Smith said.

Both Pitkin County Court and Pitkin County District Court have continued to meet and conduct business in the courthouse, which was built in 1880.