Aspen City Council on Monday agreed that it would hear suggestions from a group of citizens seeking to make improvements to the design of the new city office building planned for city-owned land between Rio Grande Place and Galena Plaza.
Harry Teague, a local architect, and Bill Stirling, a former Aspen mayor, spoke during public comment at Monday’s Aspen City Council meeting, saying that they had no intention of tearing down the design from Charles Cunniffe Architects that council approved in 2017 for the 37,000-square-foot office building. Instead, they want to build on that design and make incremental improvements. Areas of their focus will include the connection between the building and Rio Grande Park and landscaping.
“The last thing we want to do is create any sort of polarizing issue in this town again,” Teague said, adding that he is not criticizing the current architecture.
“It is a perfectly good resolution to the issues and program presented,” he said. He later added that if project architect Charles Cunniffe didn’t like his suggestions he would cease pressing his case.
Three out of four council members, with Mayor Steve Skadron dissenting, agreed to give Stirling, Teague and anyone else time to present their ideas at the April 9 work session.
“Your risk at this point is listening to us for another 20 minutes,” Teague said.
Skadron felt that while Stirling and Teague’s intentions were good, revisiting the design had the potential of leading to an endless cycle of second guessing. The issue raises a fundamental question of representative democracy and whether or not the process works.
“It’s a question of if we can govern ourselves, or does every decision have to be rethought and voted on and hashed over again and again,” he said, adding, “I don’t know where it ends.”
The rest of the council, however, was willing to hear the suggestions out with an open mind to making changes within certain parameters.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins said she wanted the building to be the best project possible; however, the 2017 approval locked certain aspects in place, including location and mass and scale. She said she would not be open to any suggestions that would change the project’s $30 million budget, its completion schedule, footprint or height.
That leaves elements including some exterior and interior changes, interface with the surrounding public parks and landscaping open for consideration. Sure to generate comment on April 9 will be the building’s effectiveness in connecting the two public parks it sits between.
In casting his no vote, Skadron said the current design works and is responsive to council’s wishes expressed through the land use approval process that lasted for years before concluding in 2017.
“As far as I am concerned it is a done deal,” he said. “This is moving forward.”