Finishing is underway on the new Aspen Town Hall in anticipation of an October move-in date for city administration employees and elected officials.
A recent tour of the 37,500-square-foot office building on Rio Grande Place reveals what the public can expect when they enter the space, which includes a grand staircase from the first level to the third, where is the boardroom and overlooks Galena Plaza.
“I think it does a spectacular job of bringing light,” said city manager Sara Ott. “It really is the centerpiece of the building.
Designed by architect Charles Cunniffe, the city inaugurated the project two years ago after demolishing the building that housed the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.
While the main entrance to the building is on Rio Grande Place to access the most frequently used departments, including building and engineering and community development, Ott said she expects many Community members enter Town Hall from Galena Plaza.
This entrance is located on an expansive plaza that offers stunning views of Rio Grande Park, the Red and Smuggler Mountains, and the Hunter Creek Valley.
The extension of the square is the roof of the second floor of the building and will serve as an outdoor public space.
“It will be a bookable space, but initially it won’t, so for the first six months I don’t think we’re going to be doing this heavily scheduled,” Ott said. “It’s a bit like the same philosophy of some of our other downtown parks that they are for general recreation and not specialized use.
“It will be a political conversation, and I think the community needs time in space to decide what they want with it.”
It will also be a political discussion among council members on how and when to go about setting up another restaurant in the adjacent Rio Grande office building, where Taster’s Pizza was located for years.
The building has been ‘white box’, which means that it was built with the necessary infrastructure but remains a shell for a future restaurateur to make specific improvements.
Ott said she will ask Aspen City Council in a business meeting on Aug. 9 what timeframe a restaurant should be selected, which will go through a formal request for proposals process.
But it probably won’t be anytime soon.
“What we’re focusing on is moving staff around and getting out of these leases that we have for different spaces around town, and the council agreed that was the top priority,” Ott said. “The second priority is to activate these community spaces and prepare them to function. “
The second and third floors of the Rio Grande building will house the human resources and parking departments.
The renovations and additional offices are designed to provide adequate workspace for city employees and centralized locations for the public.
Currently, the approximately 320 municipal employees work in cramped City Hall offices in the Armory building on Galena Street, or are spread across the city in rented buildings that cost around $ 500,000 a year in local government.
The Board instructed staff to design the building to 75% of the national standards for office space per employee and to build with the long-term future in mind and growth.
“There are standards for the circulation space, then the square footage for each employee, depending on whether they have a private office, a workspace, and so on. Said Rob Schober, Director of Capital Asset. “We took those standards and lowered them, and then we took our programming and built it into the building. “
Ott said the new city hall also addresses the city’s lack of suitable meeting space.
“So, in approaching the working conditions, we dispersed to all the conference and meeting floors,” she said.
There is a lot of flexible space incorporated into the floor plans for each department, which is designed so that no employee is at their desk all day and instead are engaging with them. the community.
And with the pandemic changing work habits and the city’s current policy that allows employees to work remotely for up to two days, this flexible space is adapting to the times, noted Ott.
In addition to construction and engineering, environmental health, and community development services on the first floor, there is also a parent room to meet the needs of the children of city workers who may need privacy, as well. as staff changing rooms for recreational equipment and showers. .
“With the volume of staff here, we want them to use the leisure facilities at lunch, to go to and from the office and that could mean we want them to shower to make your experience with them more enjoyable,” Ott said.
Offices on the second floor include the council and mayor’s office, as well as the city manager on the east side, and finance and communications on the west side of the building, facing Rio Grande Park, the latter being considered like the first place.
“We talked about departments that can never leave their desks, so we thought we’d give them something to be happy about,” Ott joked.
There is a break room and kitchen area for employees on the second floor, which has access to an external staircase that connects Rio Grande Park with Galena Plaza and downtown Aspen.
A secondary council meeting room specifically for council executive sessions is located on the south side of the second floor of the building so that when these private meetings are held between elected officials, the public can remain in the chambers.
“I really hate for executive sessions that they kick people out of the room,” Ott said, “so once (the council) told me they wanted it to be town hall, I said, ‘You need a conference room separate from the city council.’ “
There is also a meeting room dedicated to other citizens’ councils and commissions that faces Rio Grande Park on the second floor.
A third meeting room for community use and training is located on the third floor of the building, adjacent to a reception and overflow area where the public can view the board room on a mounted screen.
“One of the goals when we reprogrammed was that I really wanted a reception space so that when we host sister cities, dignitaries, monks, things like that, they have an appropriate space that is appropriate to do that. stuff for the community, ”Ott said.
The council room is roughly the same size as the current one in the Town Hall basement, but has better technology for Grassroots TV broadcast and acoustics.
Ott thanked Schober for improving the conditions of this room by suggesting windows on the south wall facing Galena Plaza rather than having none, which was in the original design.
“This is an example of one of the good things we added from contingency (budget) to make it a better space,” she said.
Funded by certificates of participation, the new city hall and renovated Rio Grande building are estimated at $ 34.5 million, with a return on investment of $ 48.6 million.
Last year, city officials decided to postpone the approximately $ 12 million renovation of the armory as financial problems from COVID were felt.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association, which has been a tenant in the city for years, is temporarily located in the old power station along the Roaring Fork River and will eventually move into the armory building.
It is not known what other community uses will be made to the armory once the city workers move.