City offices

The city will break ground on its new office project next week.

The city of Aspen is hosting an open house this morning as it prepares to begin work on a new city office building between Rio Grande Place and Galena Plaza.

“[Friday] is a meet and greet for the public to come get informed,” according to Jack Wheeler, who is consulting on the project for the city as an owner’s representative. Wheeler served as the city’s capital asset director until fall 2018, during which time he oversaw the design and entitlement process on the three-story building that will give the city more than 37,500 square feet of new office space, which will be in addition to the existing historic armory building, which will remain the seat of city government

“I’ll be more focused on the minutiae of the project,” Wheeler said of his new role overseeing construction details, which will have him reporting to the capital asset department.

Construction will begin Monday with utilities work and deconstruction activities. This includes an upgrade to the water main serving the building. Wheeler said the effort to remove the existing structure on the site — the former offices of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association — is not a demolition. As much as possible of the existing building will be carefully taken apart and directed to places other than the Pitkin County Landfill in an effort led by Aspen Deconstruction, Wheeler said.

The total project cost is currently budgeted at $31.8 million, Wheeler said. This includes all design costs, public outreach, utilities and other site work. City staff will present a phase-one contract — including the deconstruction and utilities work — to city council on Feb. 11.

A contract for vertical construction with general contractor Shaw is expected by spring. Wheeler said those numbers are looking to be between $26 and $27 million.

Aspen voters in the November election — with 57 percent in support — directed the city to build offices on the publicly owned site, over another option that would have the government buy turnkey office space on Hopkins Avenue from a private developer. The alternate project, which involved 27,000 square feet, came with a contract price of $32.5 million.

Both options involved an extensive remodel of 20,000 square feet of space in the historic armory building, which will proceed after the completion of the Galena Plaza annex building.

Wheeler referenced the total-price estimates for the Galena Plaza and armory remodel used by the city during the campaign of $46 to $49 million.

“We are right there,” he said, in terms of tracking with that estimate for total project costs, including the armory remodel.

The project’s construction will allow the city to consolidate and expand public-serving office space. City departments that will be housed in the new building are spread around town in numerous private sector locations that the city pays hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to lease, or are sharing cramped quarters in the armory. The new building will also include new public meeting spaces and conference rooms. It will be built over the Rio Grande parking garage and will add square footage to Galena Plaza.

“The city of Aspen’s new facilities will reduce taxpayers’ expenses by building on land the city owns as opposed to leasing free-market commercial space, consolidate services in downtown Aspen and improve existing facilities for better public service, improved business processes and to address accessibility issues,” says a city press release about the open house.

The open house will take place from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Friday at 425 Rio Grande Place. Representatives from City of Aspen, Concept One Group, Charles Cunniffe Architects, Shaw Construction and PR Studio, as well as Wheeler, will be available to answer questions from the public.  

Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.