Consultant: Dont emulate Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Consultant: Dont emulate Aspen

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen offers a few lessons in what not to do to foster economic vitality, according to a retail consultant who shared his findings here with administrators in Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho, last week.The communities that make up the Idaho ski resort have the basic elements to be successful for the long term, but must allow for change something Aspen has resisted, according to Ford Frick, managing director of Denver-based BBC Research and Consulting.Frick led a team of consultants who recently offered their recommendations to help improve Aspens retail environment. Last week, he addressed a group of Wood River Valley elected officials and business representatives during the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureaus annual Economic Outlook Breakfast.Frick spoke at length about Aspens struggle to maintain a healthy business environment amid soaring real-estate prices and declining destination-skier visits, according to a report in the Idaho Mountain Express, the resorts local newspaper.In the Mountain Express article, headlined Resort consultant: Dont emulate Aspen, Frick describes various factors that have affected Aspens economy, including a successful residential real-estate market that has affected the towns demographics.”A real estate economy uses or doesnt use a downtown much differently than one that caters to destination guests,” Frick told the Idaho crowd.Other factors contributing to Aspens faltering retail economy include an influx of nonretail businesses in its downtown core and strict city regulations that prohibit businesses from effectively displaying their signs and products, Frick explained, according to the Mountain Express article. Express staff writer Gregory Foley quoted Frick as saying: Aspen is regulated to death.Yes it is, concurred Julie Ann Woods, Aspens director of community development. We are hopefully turning the page on that. We are looking at how we can loosen some of those regulations.Woods, who worked closely with Frick and his consulting team while they were here, said its not unusual for other resorts to look to Aspen for insights into what to do and what not to do.I always call this lessons learned from Aspen, she said.In fact, Woods is often asked to speak on how Aspen has grappled with various issues. In April, she will address Sustainability in Resort Communities as a panelist at the American Planning Association national conference in Washington, D.C. As one of the first ski resorts in the country, Aspen is often ahead of the curve in dealing with everything from worker housing to regulating growth issues that many resorts ultimately face.You know, we dont have the opportunity to turn to other communities, because we tend to be ahead of other resort communities, she said.Planners from various communities keep in touch, though, and Woods said shes often in contact with the city planners in Ketchum and Sun Valley.Im probably the one who gave them Fords name, she said.In his presentation in Idaho, Frick also pointed to Aspen regulations that have prevented the redevelopment of downtown buildings and resulted in the inefficient use of some prime locales.”Height, density: These are good things,” Frick said, according to the Mountain Express.Aspens work to revitalize its downtown, however, is hardly unique, Frick told the group, noting other communities that are taking steps to redevelop their cores.And, he had plenty of complimentary words to say about Aspen, as well, according to Foley.As for Ketchum, Frick said the city seems to exhibit an attractive looseness in its regulation of business activity providing for more messy vitality than what is found in Aspen, the Express reported.[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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