Pitkin County Library expansion inches forward
The Aspen Times
Aspen, Co Colorado
ASPEN – An expansion plan that would add about 10,000 square feet to the Pitkin County Library – at an estimated cost of nearly $10 million – won general support from a majority of county commissioners Tuesday, but formal action on the next step is yet to come.
Librarian Kathy Chandler and several architects outlined the proposed reconfiguring of existing library space and construction of an addition on the east side of the building, extending onto Galena Plaza. The plans were developed with public input, and there will be opportunity for citizens to weigh in again, Chandler said. But commissioners will next be asked to approve spending on final designs and construction documents. That step will cost an estimated $557,000.
The timing of signing a contract for architectural design work was not discussed, but commissioners voiced general support for a two-story library expansion that helps enliven the plaza space – the grassy area between the library and the Pitkin County Courthouse.
“I think the plaza has been really underutilized,” said Commissioner George Newman.
“We really need to do something to bring that plaza to life,” agreed Commissioner Rob Ittner.
The library has an easement to expand 44 feet onto the plaza, but the envisioned design will likely extend farther in some sections and not that as far in others, said architect Willis Pember.
The plans include bringing the children’s area up from the basement to the ground floor, putting the nonfiction collection on the basement level, adding study rooms and creating a meeting room that can be accessed for public use even when the library is closed. New, second-floor deck space that takes advantage of the outdoor views is also proposed in the conceptual drawings.
The changes will address the way patrons now use a library and put the most heavily used materials on the ground floor, Chandler said.
The library is planning the expansion to coincide with the city of Aspen’s replacement of the roof on the Rio Grande parking garage. Structural reinforcements in the garage will be part of that project, allowing the library to expand outward onto Galena Plaza, which sits atop the garage.
Commissioner Rachel Richards questioned why the structural supports that were supposed to be built into the garage initially for a library expansion don’t exist.
“How did that happen? I’m very curious about that,” she said.
Richards also questioned whether a larger library would require a larger staff, which would be an ongoing expense.
Commissioner Jack Hatfield reiterated his concerns about the timing of the project.
The library currently has $5.3 million in an endowment fund. It may ask voters for authorization to borrow the other $5 million needed to finance the expansion, increasing the library’s existing property tax.
“I’m just not inclined to be going to the voters,” Hatfield said. “There’s a valid argument to be made to expand, but when?”
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