City takes a pass on Hyatt parking |

City takes a pass on Hyatt parking

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen will pass on the opportunity to put a level of public parking beneath the planned Hyatt Grand Aspen.

“I know the opportunity is there now, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud during a budget session this week. “I think it’s premature.”

With the Hyatt site on Dean Street still little more than a big hole in the ground, Councilman Torre suggested the city take at least a cursory look at what it would cost to tag onto that project and build some public parking beneath the timeshare hotel. He suggested staffers explore the possibility of underground parking beneath the nearby Silver Circle ice rink, as well.

The city would need to budget $3.5 to $4.5 million in 2004 if it wants to pursue parking beneath the Hyatt, assuming the developers would allow it, according to Tim Ware, parking operations manager for the city. One level in the underground garage would produce 70 to 90 spaces.

Aside from the price tag, Ware voiced concerns about the idea. The public has a perception that hotel parking is very expensive, he said, and the Hyatt site is a bit “off the beaten path” for motorists looking for a place to park.

As for the Silver Circle, also owned by the Hyatt developers, an ice rink atop a parking garage is possible, Ware reported. He found one already in existence ” in Chicago.

“It can be done with some creative engineering,” he said. Council members said they’d like to learn more about it.

Torre said he didn’t really expect the city to jump immediately into a costly underground-parking venture, but he suggested the area encompassing the Hyatt, Silver Circle and the Rubey Park Transit Center across the street from the rink could make an ideal, large space for below-grade parking in a central location.

“I don’t see us as having the opportunity to stop our visitors from driving here,” he said. “I was really trying to open the door to that larger discussion.”

“This is a serious opportunity if we wanted to try to raise the money,” agreed Councilman Tim Semrau. “Torre’s absolutely right ” it’s a fabulous location. It doesn’t get any better.”

“There is an opportunity there ” there’s a hole in the ground,” Klanderud added. “If it was financially feasible, now is the time to be talking about it.”

But, borrowing such a sum of money and, possibly, seeking a new sales tax to finance the debt, would require voter approval. The ballot question would have to wait until the November 2004 election ” likely too late to work within the Hyatt’s timetable.

And Council Members Rachel Richards and Terry Paulson questioned whether the city wants to draw motorists into the heart of town before they park their cars. Richards said she’d rather intercept commuters on the outskirts of Aspen.

“For me, I don’t see the money and, of late, I haven’t really seen the need,” Richards added.

“Even though the Hyatt’s intriguing … I think it’s time to take a pass on that,” Semrau concluded.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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