Construction vehicles clog Aspen streets |

Construction vehicles clog Aspen streets

Construction vehicles line the street Wednesday as a worker crosses Durant Avenue at Galena Street. Available parking spaces in the downtown core have decreased because of construction vehicles taking available parking. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN ” Construction vehicles parked along a congested Durant Avenue and South Galena Street are indicative of the citywide problem of service trucks monopolizing parking spaces. But some business owners in the North of Nell building have had enough.

Ever since the Residences at the Little Nell began construction two years ago, dozens of construction trucks on a daily basis have taken a majority of the spaces directly in front of businesses along Durant Avenue and a short section of South Galena Street on the east side of the Silver Circle ice rink.

One day last week, there were more than a dozen subcontractor trucks from several different companies parked on the street.

“My customers want to come in but there is no place to park,” said a manager of the Judith Ripka jewelry store who didn’t want to be identified. “I feel like I am in New York City; all I do is wave to hard hats.”

The store is located at the corner of Durant Avenue and South Galena Street, just a few feet from the nearby $340 million private residence club development, which is being developed by the local firm Centurion Partners and is being constructed by Swinerton Builders.

“It’s an issue of courtesy and consideration by these big corporations,” said the jewelry store manager, who added that a customer will spend $20,000 in a matter of minutes but because it takes longer than that to find a place to park, they don’t bother coming in.

“The issue is what’s fair,” she added. “It’s ridiculous. It certainly has an effect on my customers.”

Next door at the Stefan Kaelin ski shop, the four available spaces in front of the business are constantly used by construction trucks all day long and it’s been that way for 1 1/2 years.

“Our customers can’t get to our stores. Nobody seems to care because we are just a little ski shop,” Stascha Kaelin said, speaking on behalf of her husband, Stefan, who owns the ski shop and the retail store on Durant Avenue. “I feel we have no say, no voice.

“No citizen can park anymore,” she added. “I suppose we have to shut up and take it.”

Dave Linneen, senior project manager for Swinerton, said his company is doing the best it can under the circumstances and is always willing to work with nearby businesses. Linneen said he meets regularly with the property manager at the North of Nell, adding he hasn’t heard many complaints on parking from local business owners.

“If someone evaluates the totality and extent of work there, I think we’ve been a good neighbor,” Linneen said, adding the site is difficult because it’s constrained on three sides, which means only one entrance and exit. And because the project is next to the gondola plaza, Linneen said the site has been voluntarily closed numerous times for special events.

“The gondola is a social hub for this town and given the intensity of use in that area, it’s gone well,” he said. “We’re trying. I know we are wearing out our welcome. We try to do whatever we can to mitigate the problems.”

Not so, said Bubba Scott, who leases the ski shop space during the summer to operate his Ute City Cycling business. He estimates he’s lost more than $100,000 over the past three years because of construction of the Residences at the Little Nell and the Hyatt Grand Aspen.

“The construction workers park wherever they want,” Scott said, adding the construction project blocks his business from foot traffic as well. The road and sidewalk have been closed numerous times. “I’ve appealed to them and they don’t care.

“And I’ve talked to the parking department and they told me to go fly a kite.”

Further exacerbating the problem is that three parking spaces across from the ski shop and jewelry store on South Galena Street have been bought by Belly Up owner Michael Goldberg so tour buses can park there. However, those spaces remain empty most of the day and evening, with buses staying parked in front of the nightclub across from Rubey Park.

Tim Ware, director of the city’s parking department, said Goldberg pays $25 a day for each of the three spaces and reserves them in advance.

Anyone is allowed to pay $25 a day to reserve a space and Goldberg was granted that right this winter in an attempt to alleviate safety concerns at the turnout of Rubey Park where buses exit.

“I am thrilled with that plan? No. Is it an ideal situation? No,” Ware said, adding it was the best solution at the time to address safety issues.

Linneen said the builder has encroachment agreements with the city to close certain roads surrounding the site, and the company is required to meet its traffic control plan.

“From our standpoint, we’ve done the process and are in full compliance,” he said.

Ware said parking throughout town is on a first-come, first-served basis and if construction workers are willing to feed the meters ” which can cost a maximum of $22 a day ” then they have the right to park wherever they want.

The problem the parking department faces is that it can’t forbid any one group from parking in a space, nor can enforcement officers accurately determine if a vehicle is in a location because of a construction project.

“We cannot single out one group,” Ware said, adding if the city government required construction vehicles to park off-site, it would only delay the project and further impact the area.

But the situation around the North of Nell building is an issue of the Residences at the Little Nell being a good neighbor, and Ware said he is empathetic to business owners’ frustrations.

“I feel for them. They are getting hit,” he said, adding construction projects throughout town are taking up prime parking for skiers, residents and businesses. “It’s happening everywhere; it’s not just them. I think they need to act like a good neighbor in these areas.”

Linneen points out that parking spaces are available to any member of the public and Durant Avenue is a busy corridor with competing uses. Because the job site has between 150 and 200 workers a day, the construction company carpools most of its employees to the project by vans.

“We try to mitigate parking around the site, and our traffic impact is really small,” he said. “It’s a full-time job to appease everyone. I’ve had to learn a certain amount of diplomacy on this job.”

Other business owners at the North of Nell have learned to live with the trucks parked in front of their stores and realize it’s a temporary impact.

“This town sucks for parking, and the first two blocks of the gondola is always an issue,” said Dave Fond, a buyer for Incline Ski Shop, located at the gondola plaza. “It’s not like it’s going to be like this forever.”

Scott Glover, of Aspen Luggage Co., said most of his customers are walk-ins, but the construction vehicles parked in front of his store on Durant Avenue are annoying.

“They warm up their diesel trucks forever,” he said.

A few doors down at the Attic Fantasies T-shirt shop, owner Jim Newkam said he’s noticed a lot of road rage between motorists vying for spaces in front of the building.

“People are getting uptight,” he said. “More people are laying on the horns.”

Employees at Leverich and Carr Real Estate Co. said they notice the trucks in front of their Durant Avenue storefront but realize there’s not much that can be done.

“In defense of these guys, they have hammers and tools,” said Chris Leverich, adding parking farther away would be a logistical nightmare for construction workers.

Mike Carr, who works in the real estate office, pays hundreds of dollars a year to have a parking pass but is forced to park in residential areas because there’s minimal space available in the commercial core. And the price of his parking pass was just increased, further frustrating him.

“I’m not too thrilled about paying more and parking farther away,” Carr said. “I think that sucks.”

Danny Becker, who also works at Leverich and Carr, injected some humor into the situation.

“I don’t like that all of the trucks are white,” he joked of the half dozen or so construction vehicles parked in front of the office one day last week.

Monica Reinhalter, a sales representative at Generation Aspen in the North of Nell building, said she stopped driving to work because the construction vehicles already are parked in front of the store when she gets to work in the morning.

“By 8 a.m., they are already there,” she said.

While Linneen wouldn’t specify when the project will be done but said it’s on track with expectations, Centurion Partners’ website says it will be complete in the third quarter of 2008.

The sooner the better for everyone.

“My mandate from my bosses is to be the best neighbor we can and get the damn thing done,” Linneen said.

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