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Business survey begins

How much are Aspen retailers paying in rent? Are clothing stores doing better than the shops specializing in home decor?

Are merchants better off with a space on the mall or a street? What about the sunny versus the shady side of the street?

A survey is under way that city officials hope will answer those questions and more.

Aside from general sales tax figures, which offer a month-by-month snapshot of retail sales by category, Aspen has little with which to map its commercial landscape or the trends that are occurring there.

Now, the city has begun compiling something more than anecdotal evidence of how the commercial core functions. Sales tax data per business is being linked to the city’s computerized mapping system, starting with a test block bounded by Mill, Monarch, Hopkins and Hyman.

“It’s a good block because we have a variety of different uses in there,” said Julie Ann Woods, the city’s director of community development.

That block contains restaurants, a variety of retailers, real estate offices, a gallery and a public building ? the Wheeler Opera House.

“It’s to help us figure out where we really have the most success by types of business and location of business,” Woods said. “In a perfect world, we’d want to be able to see what physical attributes contribute to a business doing well.”

In addition, the city plans to work with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association to survey its member businesses on a variety of factors, including the number of people they employ, whether they provide employee housing and how much they pay per square foot in rent. Data on how much of the downtown commercial space is dedicated to retail uses versus offices, restaurants, nightclubs and such will also be compiled.

The information would be useful if the city looks at zoning changes to facilitate a better balance of businesses, according to Woods. One such rezoning proposal is already headed to the City Council ? a prohibition on office uses in ground-floor spaces in the commercial core.

Much of the data will be kept confidential, but general information ? the average cost of retail space per square foot in the core, for example ? will be available to the public and individuals who are interested in doing business in Aspen.

How much sales tax revenue is produced per block, though not per individual shop, is also the kind of information the city could provide, Woods said.


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