City Council puts brakes on parking garage |

City Council puts brakes on parking garage

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A proposed parking garage that won praise for its high-tech design and ability to pull 99 vehicles off Aspen’s clogged streets was nonetheless shot down by the City Council on Monday.

The council rejected Park Place with a 3-2 vote after a lengthy public hearing punctuated by numerous complaints about the project from its immediate neighbors. Other citizens lauded a private developer’s attempt to alleviate some of Aspen’s public parking problem.

Peter Fornell, the local real estate broker representing developer Hyman Avenue Holdings, LLC, proposed a $6 million garage with an automated system to load and retrieve vehicles from cubby hole-style spaces spread over seven levels.

He planned to sell the spaces for $100,000 to $125,000 apiece, but make them available to the public by the day when owners weren’t using them. The project was to include 19 public spaces that would not be sold, two affordable housing units and a small office for the operation.

The garage was to occupy 6,000 square feet at 707 E. Hyman Ave., between the Benedict Commons affordable housing and the Hannah Dustin office building. An A-frame building containing offices exists there now.

Following last night’s decision, Fornell said the A-frame would be razed by May to create a gravel, surface parking lot with roughly 34 spaces available for rent by the month.

Councilman Tim Semrau voiced the strongest support for Park Place, suggesting the concerns of the city and the neighbors could be adequately addressed.

“I think this is a benefit to the overall community, no doubt about it,” he said.

Councilman Torre was also open to giving the applicants time to address his concerns, but council members Rachel Richards and Terry Paulson were flatly opposed to the project.

“This is a private, for-profit project with very little public benefit,” Richards said. “Just being able to do it technically doesn’t make it right.”

Mayor Helen Klanderud cited concerns with the project, as well, but conceded it would fulfill a need.

“If this were a totally public parking facility, that would make a big difference,” she said.

When Fornell offered to make it just that, a surprised Klanderud backpedaled and agreed with Semrau’s contention that whose cars are parked there doesn’t really matter.

“To me, cars are cars,” Semrau said.

“I am voting against this application,” Klanderud finally concluded, siding with Richards and Paulson.

Fornell had also offered to remove nine spaces on the top floor of the building to reduce its 35-foot maximum height. He couldn’t easily address complaints about the building’s placement right up to the parcel’s rear property line, though.

Neighbors predicted congestion resulting from queued vehicles idling in the street as motorists wait to get into the garage. Others feared noise from the operation and some simply declared the big-city garage out of place in Aspen.

“During peak times, we think it’s going to be a disaster,” said attorney Herb Klein, representing townhome owners across the street. “It’s totally untested, untried and we don’t think we should be the guinea pig.”

“I know we have a parking problem and I know you people are under pressure to come up with a solution,” added a Benedict Commons resident. “I just don’t think this is the right solution.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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