Romero: Expect emotional feedback on city space needs project |

Romero: Expect emotional feedback on city space needs project

Aspen City Councilman Dwayne Romero said Monday that the design team steering the city’s space-needs project can expect informal, emotional feedback in the next few weeks leading up to the May 5 election.

According to officials, the city is facing about 50,000 square feet in office space and Aspen Police Department needs. The city-hired design team led by Charles Cunniffe Architects and project manager Rider Levett Bucknall has narrowed the project to two concepts: One that would see City Hall altered and reconstructed, and another that would relocate all City Hall operations to a new building near Rio Grande Place.

The first option calls for a City Hall renovation and the construction of a new 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot building at 540 E. Main St. A new Aspen Police Department would occupy about 15,000 square feet of the new space, while the city plans to repurpose the Rio Grande and Galena Plaza buildings. The estimated cost of this plan is $37 million.

The second option, priced at $40 million, would see the Galena Plaza building expanded into a new City Hall and a new Police Department built at 540 E. Main St. or nearby on Mill Street. This option would include about 40,000 to 50,000 square feet of new space for city offices and 16,000 square feet for the new police facility.

On May 19, the council approved about $2.8 million in expenses that would bring the project to final design. Romero told representatives from Charles Cunniffe Architects and Rider Levett Bucknall on Monday to expect a lot more feedback, despite previous public-outreach efforts.

“You’re going to have another 45 days or so, if you count the runoff election, of informal but fairly emotional feedback,” Romero said. “We all know that. This is a topic.”

He urged the group to take a conservative yet innovative approach.

“How can we be the most innovative and creative to produce the best result that fits in the smallest box?” Romero asked.

Mayor Steve Skadron said he is frustrated that the discussion is taking place during a political campaign.

“This is a 50-year decision that serves the long-term interests of the community,” Skadron said. “It deserves to be debated without politics around it.”

Cunniffe delivered public-outreach findings to officials during Monday’s work session. The feedback came from community members as well as stakeholders. The stakeholders were described as people who have a direct connection to the project, including neighbors, users, elected officials, candidates and city staff.

According to the top findings, the community does not support the inclusion of an affordable restaurant for the project, while the preference is to construct fewer buildings. Sustainability is highly favored, Cunniffe said, and the feedback calls for forward-looking architecture that fits the community.

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