Pitkin County Library readies for an expansion | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County Library readies for an expansion

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – The Pitkin County Library is readying plans for a nearly $10 million expansion and remodeling project, to be timed with replacement of the roof on Aspen’s adjacent Rio Grande Parking Garage.

County commissioners are likely to get their first official glimpse of what the library board envisions in November, though actual construction wouldn’t begin before 2012 at the earliest.

Librarian Kathy Chandler expects the plans to get a thorough airing before commissioners, the City Council and the public before they’re finalized. But the library board and architects have come up with a proposal to update and enlarge the 19-year-old facility, which opened its doors on Mill Street in September 1991.

“Things have changed a lot since the library was built,” Chandler said. The facility doesn’t operate like a modern library in many respects, she said.

Keying the discussion is the city’s long-standing need to replace the parking garage’s leaking roof. Sitting atop the roof is Galena Plaza – the open, grassy area with benches and planters located between the back door of the library and the side entrance to the Pitkin County Courthouse.

The library has an easement to expand 44 feet to the east, out into the plaza. That would put the outer edge of the building somewhere in the brick walkway that surrounds the circular, grassy area of the plaza, though a uniform wall extending out that far is not proposed.

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The plans do call for structural reinforcements to support a library expansion – elements that weren’t built into the garage initially – and about 9,400 square feet of additional space in a two-story addition above the garage.

“I feel like it makes sense to do the construction all at once while they’re ripping up that parking garage,” Chandler said.

The addition will allow for a meeting room with exterior access, so it can be used before and after library hours, a quiet reading area and a couple of outdoor patio areas that take advantage of the second-floor views on the back of the building.

Also planned are new carpeting and paint for the interior of the existing library, plus a major rearrangement of its components – bringing the children’s area up from the basement to the ground floor, for example, and putting the nonfiction collection on the basement level.

The library was last expanded in 2000-01 at a cost of $2 million, when the mezzanine section was completed. An elevator was installed at that time to serve an expansion on the building’s east side, and, last year, new oversized boilers were installed to make sure a larger library could be heated.

The last library expansion was funded out of two bequests totaling $3.9 million. That fund has grown to about $5 million, which could be put toward the new expansion, Chandler said. Borrowing another $5 million would mean an annual increase in taxes of an estimated $8.44 on a $1 million home, she said.

First, though, the city must decide what it intends to do with Galena Plaza and when it will remove everything currently in the plaza in order to replace the garage roof. Planning the amenities the community wants to see in the reconstructed plaza space is expected to occur next year, with actual construction in 2012 at the earliest.

Chandler wants to be ready. She intends to talk about what the library has been planning when she meets with commissioners for a budget discussion on Nov. 16.

janet@aspentimes.com