Put community first with new offices
Our community is at a crossroads. We can buy into the city’s false choice on the new city offices, which presumes that only an either/or choice exists. A) The new city offices moves forward in its current configuration, or B) The project will be stopped and the community will suffer. Alternatively, as a community we can acknowledge that a third option exists, which is: C) Build the project, but improve it first to make it the best that it can be.
The project as planned is broken because: 1) We can do better to realize a bigger vision that creates a dynamic project that meets more community goals — transportation, vitality, open space, etc. — than a single-purpose office building. 2) The public outreach was deeply flawed from the beginning and over the past year has been nonexistent; 3) The project is not compliant with the Aspen Area Community Plan, the civic master plan, or the land use code; 4) The project’s mitigation in terms of housing, parking and transportation falls shamefully short of the standard the city should set for public and private development projects; 5) Elements of the project’s program are wasteful and should be repurposed or eliminated, and the suggestion to move City Hall into the new city offices building should be vetted with the community first.
The irony is that if the community is duped into accepting the city’s false choice — the building must be built in its current configuration or the community will suffer — the result of a poorly planned and designed project will be much greater damage to the community in the long term.
There is no risk in taking time to improve the project: 1) Currently there is no city office space crisis; 2) It will cost less to design the project right the first time, rather than make modifications during construction or afterwards; 3) Politically it is possible to improve the project and the argument that the current council cannot undo previous council’s work is weak and has already been contradicted by recently approved amendments to other land use applications.
We have only one opportunity to make this project the best that it can be. City Council needs to be held accountable and be called to act in the community’s best interest. Improve the new city offices project before it is too late.