City pushes back plans for downtown |

City pushes back plans for downtown

A group of downtown business owners and managers on Monday temporarily derailed a city beautification project, convincing the Aspen City Council to delay the second part of the project until next spring.

The council, reacting to a barrage of criticism from the business people, agreed to hold off on the second phase of the Downtown Enhancement Pedestrian Project until April 2000.

But, although some in the audience at last night’s council meeting obviously wanted to see the project killed for good, the council voted unanimously to go ahead with it.

More than two dozen business representatives packed the council chambers to lodge complaints about the DEPP, a roughly $1 million project designed to widen the sidewalks along three blocks of South Mill Street and Hyman Avenue.

Three quarters of the money was spent this spring, when city crews ripped up the streets to work on storm drains, utilities and other infrastructure beneath the streets, according to one estimate.

The remaining portion of the project, including a switch from angled parking to parallel parking along Mill Street, and placement of benches, additional trees and other amenities along the length of the project, was to begin in September.

But, a majority of the business people speaking up yesterday said September is too important a month in terms of retail sales for the streets to be torn up.

“September is a major month for our livelihood,” declared businessman Barry Gordon, adding that the DEPP is “a killer for us,” speaking for others in the room.

Others argued that the sidewalks are wide enough as they are.

But Pitkin County Assessor Tom Isaac, who is wheelchair-bound, disagreed, noting that he has run people off the sidewalks in his travels around town. He asked the council to go ahead with the DEPP plans.

Still others decried the loss of eight parking spaces on Mill Street that will come with the conversion from angled to parallel parking.

City officials pointed out that an equal number of parking spaces are being created nearby – along Hopkins Avenue at Bass Park and along Monarch Street adjacent to Wagner Park. But the business community argued that their customers don’t want to park two blocks away from their destinations.

A representative of Aspen Filmfest, Sharon McWilliams, noted that having the sidewalks and streets torn up during the late-September showing of the films might be disastrous for the event.

After nearly two hours of heated testimony, the council agreed to delay the second phase, which now will begin on the first Monday in April of next year.

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