Aspen airport ideas: raze or renovate the terminal?
ASPEN – Nine different conceptual ideas for redevelopment of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport terminal got their first public review Monday, earning favor – or not – from a county-appointed master plan committee during the afternoon, and then during a public open house in the evening.The proposals, and a summation of Monday’s feedback, will be presented to county commissioners Tuesday.The ideas emerged from 11 brainstorming sessions involving 110 participants earlier this spring. Four of them call for renovating and adding to the existing terminal building, while five propose its demolition and replacement with an 80,000-square-foot building.Common to all of the plans is an underground parking garage, to be landscaped on its surface, to accommodate anticipated demand for 1,500 spaces in the next 20 years. The plans also assume a grade-separated pedestrian crossing over Highway 82, and access to the airport property at the Aspen Business Center and BMC West intersections.Each plan places the parking structure roughly between the existing terminal and the highway and reserves land upvalley of the parking garage for future, undefined needs. And, each places a transit hub at the highway, with a connection to the airport. In some sketches, the terminal building extends out to the highway, or nearly so, to facilitate the link between transit on the highway corridor and the airport.In all of the terminal designs, the concourse extends parallel to the runway, on the back side of the building, and up to 10 planes can be parked outside the terminal overnight.The updated master plan will set aside airport property for certain uses for the next 20 years, according to aviation director Jim Elwood, but the vision remains just that until the community decides to act, he said.”It doesn’t mean it will be built, it doesn’t mean it will be built in 15 years, but it could be,” he said.All of the proposals increase the size of what’s currently considered a cramped and outmoded terminal building. Some of the proposals could be constructed in part – adding just a new concourse to the back of the existing terminal, for example.The schematic drawings also offer four options for general aviation facilities, including those that serve private planes at the airport.”We heard from the public pretty overwhelmingly to maximize whatever we can do on the east side,” said Tom Schnetzer, project manager, with consulting firm Mead & Hunt. One option provides new hangars and a second fixed-base operator, which handles aircraft fueling and maintenance, on the east, or highway side of the airport, and encloses the existing, roofed hangars for small planes.Options that add aircraft facilities on the west, or Owl Creek Road, side of the airport trigger the need for a second taxiway paralleling the runway to provide access for planes on that side, Schnetzer noted.”We sort of thought this would make sense once you’d built out the east side,” he said.Those who viewed the plans Monday were invited to “marry” pieces of different proposals, if they liked part of one idea for the terminal, for example, in conjunction with an aspect from another of the nine alternatives.All of the proposals remain open to revamping, Elwood stressed.”You shouldn’t presume that the concepts in front of you are the concepts we’re recommending move forward,” he told members of the master plan committee.The alternatives will be refined and narrowed. Perhaps two to four designs for the terminal will advance, Schnetzer said.The proposals will be judged on safety, their functionality, cost, environmental impacts and a catch-all criterion – can it actually be built and operated, he said.”For Aspen, the new thing they asked us to look at is sustainability – looking at it through that lens,” Schnetzer added. That includes looking at solar, and geothermal technology, for example, but also how effectively the facilities operate overall.The plan will ultimately need county commissioner and Federal Aviation Administration approval. The process is expected to wrap up by the end of next winter.The 20-year master plan will address needs for an airport that is expected to handle nearly 300,000 commercial passenger enplanements by 2027, compared to 227,784 last year, along with about 58,000 aircraft operations, compared to 37,603 last firstname.lastname@example.org
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