Tradition rules in Pitkin County building choices

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
The fourth option for the Pitkin County building — which most closely echoes that of the Pitkin County Courthouse next door — was the most popular during three open houses earlier this week to showcase four different designs.
Courtesy image |

Aspen takes its history seriously, so it’s no surprise that the most traditional option for the new Pitkin County building appears to be the most popular.

However, two options with more contemporary design elements also were popular, said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.

County officials presented four options for the new $22 million building at three separate open houses held Wednesday morning, afternoon and evening.

The first option echoes the Pitkin County Courthouse next door by using both brick and sandstone but incorporates added windows and overhangs with more modern touches. The second option also features contemporary ideas such as sun shades to allow more natural light into interior spaces as well as solar panels on the roof and a steel-and-glass canopy over the entryway.

Option 3 pushes the modern theme even further by attaching metal screens to the building’s facade and a perforated metal canopy over the entryway. The fourth and last option most echoes the 125-year-old courthouse next door, with sandstone and roofline design elements that incorporate that building’s design features.

Mainly Pitkin County employees attended the morning open house Wednesday, and most voted for the fourth, more traditional option, Peacock said, though the first option also was popular. The afternoon open house attracted mainly city employees, people who work in buildings in the area and the general public, said Pat Bingham, the county’s community relations coordinator.

At that meeting, options 2 and 4 ran “neck and neck,” Peacock said.

The evening’s open house attracted mainly the general public, who favored options 4 and 2, he said.

“No. 3 didn’t have much support at all,” Peacock said.

And while the official numbers weren’t yet available Friday, Peacock said he thinks it will be No. 4, then No. 2 and then No. 1, in order of preference. He said he thinks people liked the fourth option because it tied in well with the courthouse, though others thought it looked too much like it.

County staff will present the four options and the official order of preference to Pitkin County commissioners at a work session Tuesday. At that point, the staff will look for the elected officials to approve one of the concepts so architects can move into the detailed design phase, Peacock said.

He said the county would like to be able to submit detailed blueprints to the city and apply for a building permit by March.

“This isn’t about making a statement,” Peacock said. “It’s about meeting people’s needs and providing services.”

In addition, county staff is working with veterans to see if they’d like to add anything to Veteran’s Park, located between the courthouse and the county building, Peacock said.

“We’re working with veterans in the community to find out what would best meet their needs,” he said. “While we’re doing (construction), we want to know what can make it work better. Or we can leave it as it is.”

The current 17,000-square-foot county building at 530 E. Main St. will be completely gutted and redone. Also, a 23,000-square-foot addition will be constructed behind the current building with a single-level, 8,000-square-foot parking garage underneath it.