Aspen City Council gives basic plaza design the thumbs-up
Ryan Summerlin April 17, 2013
ASPEN –The alley that runs between the Pitkin County Library and commercial buildings on Main Street will become a one-way road moving from North Mill Street toward the Pitkin County Courthouse and North Galena Street, according to direction the Aspen City Council gave city planners during a Tuesday work session.
The road – which some in the community call the “Library Walk” – is used heavily by county and city law enforcement patrol vehicles, city public-transit shuttles and regular motorists. Planners are working to make it a permanent, one-way thoroughfare to accommodate the redevelopment of and new uses for Galena Plaza, the little-used grassy public space between the library and the county jail building.
Over the course of three years, project planners in the city’s Parks and Capital Assets departments have sought council direction on the plaza refurbishment. On Tuesday, council members finally gave staff the OK to proceed with more detailed designs for a project that has been scaled down from slightly more elaborate concepts.
At previous planning sessions with the council, discussions have bogged down over various details, including the need for an overlook tower on the north side of the plaza that would give visitors a better view of Rio Grande Park, the Roaring Fork River and the Red Mountain backdrop; a wide and winding staircase path that would take pedestrians down to Rio Grande Place and the park area; and relocation of parking spaces for Aspen Police Department and Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars.
Council members gave their blessings to a plan that pushes the possibility of an overlook tower into a future project phase, eliminates the size of many concrete paths to provide a greater amount of green space in the plaza itself, simplifies the pathway down to Rio Grande Place and relocates many patrol-vehicle parking spaces from the immediate Pitkin County Courthouse area and North Galena Street with minimal disturbance to the law enforcement agencies.
“Having a big chunk of green space, I think, is important to a lot of people for a lot of reasons,” Councilman Adam Frisch said.
Kent Reed, director of the Hudson Reed Ensemble, which presents Shakespeare productions every in the park summer, said the new plans are far better than previous manifestations of the project. One concern he had last year was that the park would have so many amenities, there would be no room for his productions.
“I think the devil is in the details, but overall the plan has come a long way,” he said. “I think the whole community will be able to take advantage of a larger green space.”
The Galena Plaza redevelopment is connected to major repairs involving the roof of the Rio Grande Parking Garage. The plaza lies on top of the garage, which suffers from leaks and water damage. Repairing the roof requires tearing up and rebuilding the plaza.
Both projects are expected to begin in 2014 at a total cost of about $4 million, as currently budgeted.
In other business, the council agreed to provide $5,000 for an expanded Aspen Science Festival and Science Street Fair, planned for Aug. 11 at Paepcke Park.
Mike Simmons, of the Aspen Science Center, touted the festival as a kid-friendly event with dozens of interactive science exhibits and onstage performances. Council members did not take issue with the event itself but expressed concern about the continual requests for small grants made outside the city’s regular application period.