Big digs unearth parking fantasies |

Big digs unearth parking fantasies

Janet Urquhart
Spaces used by the city at the Rio Grande parking garage will be freed up with the construction of underground parking at nearby Obermeyer Place. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox

Every time somebody digs a big hole downtown, the idea surfaces faster than a ticket on the windshield of an SUV whose driver failed to plug the meter.These days, it’s the planned redevelopment of the Limelite Lodge near Wagner Park that has spurred talk of additional parking within walking distance of Aspen’s commercial core.The Limelite’s plan calls for underground parking to serve its needs. It was recently mentioned that formation of a business improvement district encompassing downtown properties could borrow the funds to build public parking beneath the Limelite, as well.Putting additional parking there has received only cursory mention so far, said Limelite owner Dale Paas.

“In my opinion, it’s a real logical thing to happen,” he added.”It was sort of like, as long as you’re down there digging, why not maximize what you’re doing, because that’s a very expensive proposition,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.The city had the same thoughts about Obermeyer Place, now under construction, where a level of parking for city use was discussed at one time. The cost of the venture ended the discussion quickly. The city will, however, have 20 spaces below Obermeyer Place for its use, in exchange for the lease of some city land to the development. That will free up spaces the city currently uses in the 350-space Rio Grande parking garage.Putting parking beneath Wagner Park is an old idea that still floats around on occasion, and City Councilman Torre once asked about the opportunity for public parking beneath Rubey Park, the street out front and the Silver Circle ice rink. At the time, the Hyatt Grand Aspen was digging a big hole to the south of the ice rink for its parking.

And, there’s the opportunity for underground parking beneath the city’s Zupancis property on Main Street, which could link to the subgrade parking at Obermeyer Place to the north.Formally, though, the city isn’t pursuing another parking garage at the moment, according to City Manager Steve Barwick.”We do not have a City Council mandate to pursue additional parking in the downtown,” he said.Discussions about parking usually break down into a debate over whether providing more of it would only encourage more people to drive into town or reduce traffic by providing motorists with a place to park instead of circling the core in search of a space.

Would-be parking garage developer Peter Fornell predicted his proposed automated garage on Hyman Avenue would free up on-street spaces, but the council rejected his project. He planned to sell the spaces, but rent them as short-term parking when their owners weren’t using the spaces.”That’s not what I would call public parking,” Klanderud said. “We do need to do something. I’m not exactly sure what it is,” she added.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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