Police welcome Aspen to new building
After decades of yearning, years of planning and 18 months of construction, the Aspen Police Department officially welcomed the community to its brand new building Friday.
“You are why we work here,” Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor told the assembled crowd in front of the $20.9 million building at 540 E. Main St. “(We have) massive appreciation for you helping us achieve this dream of having a modern workspace.”
Aspen police have been pining to exit their cramped quarters in the basement of the Pitkin County Courthouse — two doors down from the new building — since at least 2005, Pryor has said. That space, which the department has called home since the 1980s, is not large enough to accommodate the department’s needs, as evidenced by the need to rent space in a nearby building for Pryor and detectives to have an office.
Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron made reference to the lengthy process that led to Friday’s open house when he thanked his colleagues on the current and past city council for enduring “years of work sessions and meetings to get it done.”
“The building is on time and on budget,” Skadron said proudly.
Construction workers began the project in November 2016 by tearing down a 1970s-era ranch house previously owned by the Zupancis family and later occupied by the city’s parking department.
The Zupancis family lived on the property, beginning in about 1900 until 1999 when they sold it to the city. Three 1890s-era buildings that were on the property were moved this winter to the Marolt open space, where they are being restored as part of the Marolt Mining Museum space.
The 18,515 square-foot building now will offer plenty of space for police officers, including a gym area, a basement garage complete with large evidence room, plenty of office space and interview rooms and a good amount of space available to the public.
On Friday, Pryor invited community members to use the building’s south-facing, second-floor patio with a beautiful view of Aspen Mountain for lunch, coffee or to view parades and fireworks.
“You’re welcome to come anytime,” he said.
Pryor also buried a time capsule near the building’s entrance he said contained “various secret things,” including a letter he wrote to Aspen’s police chief in 2118.
Friday’s open house began with an honor guard of Aspen Police Officers Braulio Jerez, Ritchie Zah and Dan Davis in full uniform performing a flag ceremony featuring Zah — a former professional violinist — playing a rousing rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
It ended with Becky Oliver’s second-grade class from Aspen Elementary School up on the patio reciting a pledge to “promise to follow the golden rule and be honest” and cutting blue ribbons hanging from the railing.
“I’m very excited,” said Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn just before the festivities began. “(The building) looks terrific, we have a great crowd and everybody’s smiling.”
The project also includes a $7.3 million, 8,220 square-foot affordable housing complex behind the new police building that contains three one-bedroom units, three two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units. It is slated to house both police officers and city employees.
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The city of Aspen’s office building is exempt from paying encroachment fees, yet private developers have to now pay $9 a square foot, per month, starting in 2020.