Letter: Give back a treasured building to the community
October 28, 2015
I wrote in a previous letter this week that ballot question 2A (Base 2) was the least understood ballot issue this November, but I think ballot question 2B (Use of the Aspen Armory Site) may be the real winner on that point. This is more than a question about the future use of one building; it is a question about the best use for that building and the ramifications of alternative uses. This is a vote on more than should city offices be in the Armory, it is a vote on how the city as a business, a customer service center, a model of energy efficiency, and a civic center will function in the future. Most of the facts of the Civic Relocation Project have been put forward, whether through the city's public process, recent published notices, and public comment through letters and editorial. But consider one more time:
The Armory Hall and Fraternal Hall was built in 1892 and was intended to be both a staging area for the local militia and a community meeting place. The Armory Hall function was limited, but the use as a community center in the Fraternal Hall occurred for a longer time than the current use as City Hall. A vote for community use will return this building to its historic use – as a gathering place for the community in the core of the downtown. Few communities have the opportunity to regain community use of a property as prominent, connected and valuable as our Armory and Fraternal Hall.
And a vote for community use allows the city to continue the process of the last few years, of developing the best solution for relocating our city offices. Earlier this year council determined that consolidating city offices in one location created the most efficient work environment, was the most cost effective alternative, was the least impactful in terms of construction duration and location, optimized customer service, and was the most adaptable and flexible for future needs. The current configuration of city facilities in several different locations creates redundancy and inefficiencies through the separation of functions and the duplication of resources and it may be a misstep to maintain that model. The Armory/Fraternal Hall could remain city offices, but it would not necessarily be "City Hall" — it may be city offices that have little public interface.
Maintaining Aspen's unique character should be at the forefront of everyone's minds. We value our historic buildings and pride ourselves on their productive reuse. Looking to the future by supporting the Armory/Fraternal Hall as a community center, we benefit by having city hall in one location and at the same time give back a treasured historic building to the community.
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