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Planning for Aspen/Pitkin office site hits ownership snag

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” It’s deal or no deal time for the Zupancis property on Main Street in Aspen.

Despite conceptual plans in the works for a major reshuffling of downtown properties through the ZG master planning process, some Pitkin County officials say that without a firm deal for the city-owned 16,500-square-foot parcel adjacent to current county offices they just can’t move ahead.

The Zupancis land is now home to the Aspen Parking Department, as well as a few historic structures.



“ZG” is a play on the common Aspen license plate tag, but also stands for Zupancis and Galena, the downtown block that is home to the Pitkin County Library, the parking structure, Aspen Chamber Resort Association offices, Rio Grande Conference room, jail, courthouse and the county’s Plaza One office building.

On Wednesday beginning at 11:30 a.m., city and county officials will host an open forum at the Hotel Jerome where citizens can look at a 3-D conceptual model presenting the size and shape of the proposed building (with no architectural features). Those in attendance also will have a chance to ask and answer questions.




The county stands to gain some 48,000 square feet of office and meeting space, but some county officials said there’s no deal without settling with the city over the Zupancis land, where many of the new offices would sit.

“Without some ownership in the process, why go ahead with it?” Commissioner Michael Owsley asked at a recent work session. “We could be planning for something we don’t own and that would be foolish.”

“It’s like we’re all moving forward with a partnership, but there are no partners,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said.

County officials drafted a letter to the Aspen City Council this week asking to move ahead with negotiations over the land.

“I think they’re right,” Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said on Thursday after reading the letter.

“We’ve been remiss in not making a decision on the disposition of that building,” Ireland said. “We should get on with it.”

Ireland said the City Council will hold an executive session to discuss sale of the land, which is also home to a few historic structures.

Asked about a potential price for the downtown parcel, Ireland suggested striking a balance between what the city paid for the land plus interest and the current inflated prices of downtown real estate, adding that it’s a matter of moving taxpayer money from one public entity to another and so there is no reason to inflate the price.

The proposed building in the ZG planning area could include space for the Aspen Art Museum ” which would move from its site on the Roaring Fork River ” the

ACRA, Pitkin County and city of Aspen, the library, as well as small “pocket parks,” according to Brian Pettet, Pitkin County public works director.

“People need to understand that staff has not come up with this on their own,” Pettet said, adding that the design is the result of years of public meetings and design charrettes.

Nor will the process stop with a public meeting; the plan will go to a COWOP process (Convenience and Welfare of the Public), which will include citizens, landowners and other interested parties.

cagar@aspentimes.com

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