Public process about to begin on how to return old Aspen City Hall to community

Armory building is scheduled to be remodeled next year and delivered to public in 2024

The Aspen community will soon be asked to weigh in on how the armory building, formerly City Hall, should be used.

The plan is to deliver the armory back to the community by 2024, after city officials have heard from the public on what should go into the 19,000-square-foot building.

Aspen City Council agreed during Monday’s work session on a multistep public engagement process that is expected to be completed by April.

Outreach will consist of gathering ideas from the public and organizing the information and then reengaging the community to verify the results of the initial engagement and refine programming proposals.

That will be done in video or in-person tours of the building, open houses, questionnaires, the city’s online survey platform,, social media, emails, the city’s website, direct outreach, and newspaper and digital advertisements.

“What we’re looking at is a two-phase public input process,” said Jen Phelan, the city’s development manager. “One is to really solicit ideas from the public, distill them, send them out again, and on that second phase of engagement, we’d be confirming the feedback the city gathered, and try and narrow down the uses that the community would like to see in that building.”

Once Aspen City Council decides the use, which is expected in May, city staff will begin working on entitlements, construction documents and a building permit submission, according to Phelan.

Some council members said the public outreach schedule seems rushed.

“I agree with the aggressive timeline; I just wonder if it’s too aggressive, but I’d like to move it along as much as possible,” said Councilman Ward Hauenstein, who like the rest of his colleagues on council wants the armory to be used by the public and designed for the public.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards said the city should provide ideas for the space, as well, perhaps based on what other communities have done.

“When we talk about community engagement, to me, we should be developing a bit of a list of potential opportunities or looking around and having that list of what things our community is perhaps missing,” she said. “It’s like asking people what they want for dinner and not giving them the menu of what’s possible.”

Remodeling of the armory is expected to begin in the spring of 2023.

In the meantime, Pitkin County will lease the armory for most of this year and use it as a temporary home for its court system while the third floor of the courthouse is remodeled.

Also getting a remodel is the old powerhouse, which is currently being used by the city’s capital asset department and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s offices and visitor’s center.

The plan is for ACRA to move to an overhauled armory, but how much square footage and public-facing space has yet to be determined.

The armory is returning to community use space now that the 37,000-square-foot new City Hall on Rio Grande Place is open and staff is working from there.

However, the new building is not big enough to house four departments — special events, IT, transportation and capital asset — and are proposed to be located in the 7,500-square-foot old powerhouse, which council supported Monday with some reservations and questions.

Both buildings are designated historic resources and are in the public zone district, according to Phelan.

Guiding principles for remodel and programming for the armory:

• The building remodel will incorporate sustainable systems showing a commitment to the environment.

• The armory should be able to be used by a diverse range of people.

• The uses within the Armory should provide meaningful and affordable participation in programs and offerings.

• The operational structure of the armory should limit the public financial burden of operating and maintaining the building.

• The remodel will respect the historic context and contribute to Aspen’s small-town character.

• The programming of the armory should contribute to a lively and diverse downtown.

• The programming at the armory should focus on unmet needs within the community.

Source: City of Aspen