Plans for new Aspen cop shop on display today | AspenTimes.com

Plans for new Aspen cop shop on display today

Back in the 1950s, Aspen police officers knew a nighttime call needed their attention when a large spotlight mounted atop the Hotel Jerome lit up Shadow Mountain.

And while technology eventually banished that Batmanesque signal to the dust bin of history, it may soon make a symbolic return to the fold when a brand-new Aspen Police Department building is constructed in the next year or so, Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said.

"It's a quirky little bit," Pryor said. "It's a way to tie us in to history."

Aspen police have never had their own home. They've shared space in the basement of the Pitkin County Courthouse with the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Office and others since the mid-1980s. Before that, the department was located in City Hall on Galena Street.

Now, plans for a new approximately 16,000-square-foot building housing only the Police Department are finally taking shape. And Pryor and other police officials want to know what the community thinks about them.

Schematics for the new building were completed about a week ago by Charles Cunniffe Architects in Aspen, and police officials will share them with the public at an open house from 5 to 6:30 p.m. today at the current police offices in the courthouse basement.

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"We're going to present them to the community and get some feedback," Pryor said. "Hopefully they will support it.

A preliminary drawing of the new building — with a spotlight presented as a decoration outside at the front of it — show a modern brick-and-glass structure with a good bit of green space on the east side of the building. The two-story building with a basement will be built on the east side of the Pitkin County building on Main Street where the city Parking Department is currently located. The parking building will be torn down.

Current plans incorporate a good-sized lobby on the first floor and a community room above it on the second floor with a patio overlooking Main Street that will have a view all the way up Hunter Street to Aspen Mountain, Pryor said. The new building will have a gym for officers in the basement, along with two evidence storage rooms and plenty of office space for officials and officers.

It also will likely include a one-story, underground parking garage, he said.

Pryor said the green space currently envisioned for the east side could incorporate three historic structures on the property, including a cabin that dates to the 1880s. Those structures probably will have to be moved during construction, though the specifics of that will be up to the city's Historic Preservation Commission, he said.

"My goal from the start was to have a place where the community wants to come," Pryor said.

So far, the Aspen City Council has allocated $12 million for the project, Pryor said, though it is still in the preliminary stages and things can change between now and the project's groundbreaking. Pryor said he hopes that will occur by the beginning of 2017.

The department needs new digs because, similar to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, it has outgrown the space it currently uses. In fact, Pryor, his two assistant chiefs and the department's detectives and community-response officers moved out of the courthouse a year ago and are spending $80,000 a year on office space nearby at Obermeyer Place.

Before that, police officers often had to deal with people who were upset or crime victims in the hallway outside police offices in the courthouse basement, he said. Pryor or one of his assistant chiefs sometimes had to give up their offices when detectives needed to interview a suspect or a crime victim, Pryor said.

Evidence is still stored in an old vault in the basement as well as in the basement of the Pitkin County Jail.

"We can't do the job we need to do in that space," he said. "We're not trying to overreach. We just want the space to enable us to do our job right."

The Sheriff's Office also will get new digs around the same time when the county renovates its current building next door and adds another 23,000-square-foot building to the back of it. Pryor said he hopes to connect the new building to the sheriff's facility.

The county's building plans may not begin until the end of 2017, making the area on Main Street west of Hunter Street into a construction zone that's liable to remain for awhile.

jauslander@aspentimes.com