Work begins on site of new Aspen Police headquarters |

Work begins on site of new Aspen Police headquarters

This hole in the ground is the only thing left of a 1970s-era ranch house that served as headquarters of the city of Aspen's Parking Department for many years. Workers began preparing the site this week for a new Aspen Police Department headquarters.

The building that for years housed the city of Aspen Parking Department is now a hole in the ground as construction workers began preparing the site this week for a new Aspen Police Department building.

“The project moving ahead is exceptionally exciting,” said Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor. “In a weird way, (I’m feeling) shock that there’s actually movement on the ground.”

The department has been engaged in serious discussions about moving out of the cramped Police Department space in the basement of the Pitkin County Courthouse since about 2005, he said. However, Pitkin County’s plans to renovate and add on to its building next door brought the discussions into sharper focus, Pryor said.

“Part of me is so grateful for the recognition of this need,” he said. “It’s phenomenal — it really is.”

The 1970s-era ranch house that housed the Parking Department and was built by the Zupancis family, who owned the property at 540 E. Main St. until 2005, was torn down Monday to make way for the new 18,515-square-foot police headquarters.

Permits for the actual construction have not yet been issued, though Pryor said Wednesday he expects that to occur soon. Once that happens, workers likely will excavate the site during January and February and begin pouring concrete for the new building afterward, he said.

The site also will include an 8,290-square-foot affordable-housing complex, which will feature three one-bedroom units, three two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units. Aspen police officers and city employees will be eligible for those units.

The police headquarters building is slated to cost $20.9 million, while the affordable-housing complex is budgeted at $7.3 million.

Three historic buildings remain on the site and will likely begin to be moved to the Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum just west of the Marolt pedestrian bridge off Seventh Street in the next two weeks, said Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn.

Those buildings include a house and a shed that date back to about 1885, and a barn likely built around 1938. Officials from the Aspen Historical Society have praised the house as the only existing example left of a home from that period.

In the meantime, community resource officers from the Police Department have been trying to figure out if a fox has been living in the old home, said Dave Paschal, one of the officers. Paschal said he saw the fox run across Main Street a couple weeks ago and that he and others have found signs around the home that its den may be inside.

To try and scare the animal away, officers have made a lot of noise, placed ammonia-soaked rags near possible den entrances and have set a trap for the animal, Paschal said.

“We’re just trying to be proactive,” he said.

That area of Main Street is about to become a major construction hub for the next year and a half or so.

In addition to the new police headquarters, Pitkin County has already begun tearing out the innards of its building next door in preparation for renovating it and adding on a sizable addition to the back side of the building.

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