Aspen wants input on plaza makeover
September 16, 2011
ASPEN – They came, they saw, they voted.
City of Aspen officials held an open house Thursday to gauge opinions about the future redevelopment of Galena Plaza, the open area between the Pitkin County Library and the courthouse.
With repairs to the leaky roof of the Rio Grande Parking Garage fairly imminent – necessitating the tear-down of the plaza – the city will take an opportunity to make the area a more functional and attractive place for visitors and residents alike. A lot of ideas are floating about, including the concept of an amphitheater setting that can showcase more arts events and community gatherings.
Actually, two separate open houses took place, one starting at 11:30 a.m. and another beginning at 4 p.m. The earlier event was well-attended, with people commenting on the various designs and telling city officials how they want to see the plaza developed. Some community events already take place at the plaza annually, but there is a general belief among government planners and other observers that the plaza is grossly underused.
Scott Chism, project manager for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the ideas gathered at the open house will be added to a pool of comments gathered from local stakeholders. Eventually, the city will choose and implement a popular design, but as of now, plans are in a state of flux – and so is the projected cost.
“At some point soon, we have to replace the roofing membrane of the garage,” Chism said. “It’s leaking. In order to do that repair, everything that you see on the plaza has to go away. The question is, what do we put back?”
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The plaza and garage projects also might be timed with a library expansion project, but the status of that nearly $10 million project is uncertain.
Chism said the plaza and garage project can be designed with the 10,000-square-foot future library expansion in mind. County commissioners have yet to advance the project, though; they weren’t willing to put a funding question for the library expansion on this November’s ballot. A $5.3 million library endowment fund could go toward the expansion.
“The library will very likely have to go to a public vote next year to get the money that they need for that expansion,” Chism said. “We’re planning right now that it could happen. But if it doesn’t happen, it’s not that much of a problem.”
Information about plaza concepts and artist renderings depicting how it could look are available online at http://www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/Capital-Asset/Current-Projects-/Galena-Street-Plaza/. Parks and Recreation is working jointly with the city’s Capital Asset Department to formulate plans.
Those seeking more information or wanting to provide ideas to city planners are invited to contact Chism at (970) 429-2029.