Aspen visitor center shot down
Aspen voters rejected plans for a new Main Street visitor center by nearly a 2-to-1 margin Tuesday at the polls.Referendum 2A, asking voters if the zoning approval for the project should be repealed, passed 2,290-1,157.Mayor Helen Klanderud, a supporter of the project, said she was a bit surprised by yesterday’s returns.”I think it’s a true lost opportunity for the city of Aspen,” she said.Private landowners won city approval for a redevelopment at the corner of Galena and Main streets that was to incorporate the visitor center and new offices for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.Opponents, including condo owners at Galena Lofts whose views would be blocked by the project, launched a referendum initiative that led to the placement of Referendum 2A on the ballot.With the referendum petition drive under way, the project’s developers sweetened the deal by offering to give to the city the space in the building allocated for the visitor center and ACRA offices. Initially, the city was to purchase the square footage and lease it to the chamber.Proponents of the project claimed a more visible visitor center on Main Street would serve a greater number of visitors and boost the tourist dollars spent here. ACRA headquarters and its main visitor center are currently located in front of the Rio Grande parking garage, off Rio Grande Place.The project’s opponents decried the location of a visitor center on a busy downtown corner and claimed the available parking for the facility was insufficient.”The electorate has spoken. We’ll move forward as best we can,” said Rick Jones, president of the ACRA board of directors, after the votes were tallied.”I would hope it’s a vote on this particular issue – not anti-tourism in general,” he said.The developers, meanwhile, have alternate plans in the works for much the same building at the corner, but without the visitor center and ACRA offices.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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