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Pitkin County Library’s next chapter includes old Aspen Art Museum

This architectural rendering shows the new look of the east entrance of Pitkin County Library once the North Mill Street facility's expansion and remodel is completed.
Courtesy of Pitkin County Library |

Come mid-April, library users might find themselves checking out books at the old Aspen Art Museum. That’s because the Pitkin County Library is aiming to occupy the vacated space on a temporary basis as a major construction project soon gets underway on the North Mill Street building.

Some two-thirds of the library’s collection — that’s 60,000 books — will be stored in a parking garage in Snowmass Village during the construction period. The remaining books would be available at the makeshift library, county librarian Kathleen Chandler said. She noted that the Pitkin County Library is part of the Marmot Library Network book-exchange program that has access to more than 1.7 million titles.

Chandler and Jodi Smith, the county’s facilities superintendent, debriefed commissioners on the expansion project, which calls for a one-story addition of 5,108 square feet and another 2,200 square feet on the mezzanine level.

Improvements include a new children’s area, flexible group-study areas, an expanded teen area, a new commons area and a new media laboratory.

The project is expected to be complete in the summer of 2016, and comes after voters in November 2012 went against a property tax hike that would have offset the cost of the expansion and future operating expenses for the library.

The project’s estimated cost is $11.5 million to $13.5 million, Chandler said. The bulk of that will be funded through private donations and another $600,000 will come from the library’s property tax coffers, Chandler said.

Chandler told commissioners the library has asked the city if it can borrow the old art museum site, located about one-quarter of a mile away from the library off of North Mill Street near the banks of the Roaring Fork River, for about five months.

Chandler said the library also would need cooperation from the future permanent tenant at the old art museum.

“I anticipate there might be a few days here and there where we have to close,” Chandler told commissioners. “We’re trying to keep the library open seven days a week.”

The city has winnowed down its list of potential tenants for the former museum space to the Aspen Science Center, the Red Brick’s Powerhouse Performance and Event Center, GrassRoots TV’s Aspen Media Powerhouse, the Aspen Brewing Co. and Paul Kienast’s Gathering Place. Aspen City Council plans to decide March 17 on the future occupant of the 7,200-square-foot building.

“We came late to the process where the city had asked the nonprofits to throw their hats in the ring, and if they were interested in having the art museum for a long-term basis,” Chandler said after the work session. “We don’t want to get in the way”

The library’s ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 17 for what County Manager Jon Peacock deemed a “remarkably complex project.”

“We’re going to be keeping a very close eye on it . … There’s a lot more critical milestones in this project than what you would see in typical construction projects,” Peacock said.

That’s chiefly because of the city of Aspen’s $7.6 million redevelopment of Galena Plaza that starts in April.

Two levels of the Rio Grande Parking Garage will be closed during the plaza construction project as part of roof-replacement work, Smith said.

“We believe, and we’re hoping within our construction schedule, that this garage work will be done by the end of June,” Smith said.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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