Catalyst job for downtown gets council’s nod
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A “downtown catalyst” will be hired to spearhead efforts to improve Aspen’s retail scene, the City Council decided Tuesday.
And after two hours of arguing, a council majority agreed the catalyst will technically be employed by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and will answer to a three-member executive board.
Council members also agreed to form a broader, advisory board to assist the catalyst, comprised of representatives from a cross section of primarily the business community.
The city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission drafted a job description for the position. It calls for the catalyst to meet with retailers and represent their interests, initiate a Business Improvement District and generate ideas for revitalizing the retail environment.
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Councilman Torre alone opposed creating the post, contending the city staff should be able to handle the tasks without spending $70,000 ” the proposed salary for the post. He noted the city is already moving forward with ideas to revitalize the downtown, including installing fire pits on the mall and instigating last year’s Friday Afternoon Club concerts.
“I see this person accomplishing things because we are accomplishing things, not because we’re spending $70,000 to get things done,” he said.
His council colleagues, however, agreed the position is a wise investment to make things happen more quickly.
“This is a little investment in trying to jump-start something for the community sooner rather than later,” said Councilman Tim Semrau.
The city will front the money for the post for the first six months of work. A surcharge on business license fees, collected in December, has been discussed as a way to recoup the cost.
Semrau first pitched the idea of making the catalyst an ACRA employee who reports to a three-person board, including the city manager, a CCLC member and one ACRA member.
Councilman Terry Paulson and Mayor Helen Klanderud both backed the arrangement. Councilwoman Rachel Richards felt the catalyst should primarily answer to the city, but Paulson balked at creating the perception that it’s a government post.
Council members also expressed an interest in keeping the catalyst’s job open to possibilities, rather than bogged down with a specific list of chores.
“The biggest negative to this would be saddling this person with a list of things you think need to be done,” Paulson said.
“We can revise this list ” we do not want to tie someone’s hands,” Klanderud agreed.
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