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September 18, 2012
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City staff seeks direction on Aspen's Galena Plaza remodel

ASPEN - During the recent Aspen City Council review of a proposed Pitkin County Library expansion, Galena Plaza redevelopment concepts kept finding their way into the discussion.

Some council members, including Derek Johnson and Torre, wanted to know how a reconfigured plaza would mesh with an expanded library building that takes up more of the plaza's space.

"My comments to date have been, 'Let's be careful we're not trying to squeeze too much stuff in our little 5-pound bag on this property,'" Johnson said Monday. "Let's be respectful of the library, the neighbors and the current uses. Let's not try to make this space something it isn't."

Johnson said he will be out of town on business when the council discusses the project's direction with the Galena Plaza planning team at Tuesday's work session, which begins at 4:30 p.m. at Aspen City Hall, 130 S. Galena St. He said he has met with city staff in recent months to make his general desires for the space known.

Improvements to Galena Plaza, a project that also includes repairs to the leaky Rio Grande Parking Garage roof below it, are estimated to cost between $4 million and $4.3 million. City planners want to make the plaza more user-friendly, giving it more of a park-style atmosphere while also improving its potential as a pedestrian link between the Main Street-downtown area and Rio Grande Park.

Scott Chism, planning and construction operations manager for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said Monday that the project team will be seeking direction from the council on a host of issues. He'll want to know whether certain amenities that grew out of public outreach meetings last year - such as a small amphitheater on the north side of the plaza and a staircase leading down to Rio Grande Place - should still be included in the planning effort.

There are other things to consider, he said, such as stormwater-drainage infrastructure, utility-line consolidation and an expansion of the plaza's north side to give users a better view of the Rio Grande Park area. Council members also need to decide whether Denver consultant S.A. Miro Inc., the project's authorized engineering-team leader, and the rest of the planning team should proceed with a comprehensive analysis of itemized costs for each aspect of the job.

Though the city has met with council members about the Galena Plaza designs a few times over the past year, the recent library project discussions introduced a level of uncertainty about the future of the plaza, Chism said.

"The work session is intended to be a listening opportunity for the (project team) to hear what the council has to say," he said. In turn, the team will provide information about various aspects of the project and how they integrate with the proposed library expansion.

What might cloud the discussion is the fact that the future of the library expansion is unknown. County voters will be asked on Nov. 6 to approve a property tax increase that would pay for about half of the expansion's $10.3 million cost.

Chism added that the project team will present plaza scenarios that would work whether the library project is approved or not.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Sep 18, 2012 07:56AM Published Sep 18, 2012 02:07AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.