Letter: Retain and reuse City Hall
I’d like to explain my lone vote at the City Council to retain and reuse the existing 20,000-square-foot City Hall for city offices.
The plan supported by the other four council members is to build 51,900 square feet on the site of the existing Rio Grande parking garage and old Youth Center and extend west toward the library. That existing building would be deconstructed. With the goal of 51,900 square feet all under one new roof achieved, the City Council would then begin a process to repurpose the current 20,000-square-foot City Hall to something currently unknown, though it wouldn’t be city offices (just as the council repurposed the old 7,200-square-foot art museum).
I proposed an alternative staged approach that reuses the existing City Hall and avoids nearly 20,000 square feet of net new development:
First, build roughly 20,000 square feet in place of the existing Rio Grande parking garage and old Youth Center building. This would be similar in mass to what is proposed on that site under the 51,900-square-foot plan (but without the additional 31,900 square feet to the west). Upon completion, use the new 20,000 square feet of offices in the new Rio Grande site to relocate the 20,000 square feet of offices in the existing City Hall. Next, the (temporarily) vacated City Hall can be renovated, reconfigured and — when completed — reoccupied.
With 40,000 square feet between the renovated 20,000-square-foot City Hall and the new 20,000-square-foot Rio Grande building, the remaining 11,900 square feet of city offices could be built on the north side of the Zupancis/540 E. Main St. parcel in conjunction with the new police facility.
My proposal retains and reuses the existing 20,000-square-foot City Hall for city offices as part of the 51,900-square-foot solution. The direction of my fellow council members results in an additional 20,000 net square feet of development in town by replacing and moving out of our City Hall.
The primary drawback to my proposal is it does not achieve some of the presumed efficiencies of an all-under-one-roof solution. The primary benefit of my proposal avoids adding 20,000 square feet of new built space to our government’s portfolio and our community. That extra 20,000 square feet will need new staff (along with new money) to operate and maintain — placing additional demands on our already strained parking and traffic infrastructure. I believe the burden of this additional development on our community outweighs the perceived benefit of the all-under-one-roof solution.
Aspen City Council
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With much sorrow I heard of the passing of a good friend Bruce Berger. He was a man for all seasons, a pianist, prolific author, environmentalist, and lover of Aspen.