The Jewish community of Aspen, Colo., is buzzing with excitement in advance of this summer's groundbreaking of a new 34,000-square-foot community center. According to the plans, the new home of Chabad-Lubavitch of Aspen Valley will fit right in with the city's quaint rustic wood-framed storefronts, but retain its utility as a home for the growing community's many activities.

But the biggest advantage, say community members, is that in less than two years, they will actually be within walking distance of the sweeping new complex, which will house a preschool, teen and adult programming, a ballroom, retreat facilities, a library, kosher kitchen and a ritual bath known as a mikvah.

"It's going to be the most exciting thing the Aspen community has ever had," predicts Harry Feldman, the center's vice president. "And it's really important for the children and teens. When these kids come, I want them to be positive about being Jewish, like I am."

Rabbi Mendel Mintz, co-director with wife Lieba of Chabad-Lubavitch of Aspen Valley, sees the new center as an opportunity to strengthen the community in unforeseen ways. He notes that the future building will be a far cry from when hey first arrived, setting up shop in a tiny, 700-square-foot condominium.

Since then, attendance at services has skyrocketed – its holiday services annually draw a total of 1,000 people – and a once small Hebrew school has grown into a student body of 65 kids.

"It was clear that we needed something bigger," says Mintz. "I had no imagination or vision of seeing something this successful and big coming up. But we looked at the land and we spoke with the community, and they said let's do it."

Mintz estimates that the building's construction will take about 18 months to complete at a total cost of $22 million. Vigorous fundraising has been able so far to account for half of that amount. Arthur Chabon, a New York-based architect, is designing the project.

Local residents point out that the parcel of land is one of the most sought after in the entire valley. They say that the support of the city's non-Jews was key to getting the necessary approvals from the municipality.

"The new center is what everyone talks about," says Inna Effres, who is Jewish. "Everyone is so looking forward to it.

"It's been kind of a miracle, mixed with hard work and luck," she continues. "And it's a testament to what Rabbi Mintz and Lieba were able to accomplish with their optimism."

"I can't wait," echoes Jenny Rosenberg. "I have two young kids and I want my oldest to go to preschool there. I think it will not only change the Jewish community, but the entire valley."