City OKs 7th & Main housing |

City OKs 7th & Main housing

Sarah S. Chung

Employee housing at 7th and Main streets – and a controversial convenience store to go with it – won unanimous approval from the Aspen City Council on first reading Monday.The 11-unit city project is moving forward with the commercial space, despite opposition from neighbors and the council’s advisers. Some on the council, however, agreed steps must be taken to lessen the impact of delivery-truck traffic.A new proposal to be explored before second reading on the application is possible creation of a park on city-owned land near the project.The project’s neighbors voiced concern last night that additional traffic and parking could aggravate a situation that’s “out of control now.”Generally, neighbors in attendance supported employee housing at the site, but want sufficient parking to be provided. Plans calls for eight on-site parking spaces to serve the project, plus three remote spaces at Benedict Commons.The commercial space – likely a corner grocery store – remained a contentious subject. The store, while strongly advocated by the city’s planning staff, was rejected by a majority on the city Planning and Zoning Commission and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Board.Neighbors took a united stand against the commercial space and were supported by Councilman Tony Hershey.”Aspen’s loaded with gathering spots and the Hickory House is right across the street,” Hershey said.But the rest of the council seemed comfortable with the store, envisioned as a spot for residents to pick up basic groceries without driving across town. If it proves a problem, the space could be converted into another residential unit, supporters pointed out.”It is a risk but it’s important to try new things,” said Mayor Rachel Richards. “I think the commercial space has the potential to create and maintain character in an affordable housing project.”The second and final reading of the 7th & Main project will be held on Feb. 28. If it is approved, construction could start this summer and the units could be ready for occupancy next spring.

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