Councilman Vickery calls for Main St. monuments |

Councilman Vickery calls for Main St. monuments

John Colson

City Councilman Jake Vickery envisions “monuments” in the middle of Main Street.

He believes small statues or sculptures could celebrate some aspect of life in Aspen and provide a “pedestrian oasis in the middle of Main.”

And he would like to see more commercial businesses established along the western end of Main. They would not be “tourist-oriented businesses,” he stressed, but locally owned businesses for locals that would provide places for residents of that neighborhood to hang out together.

But Vickery is not sure he has much support among his peers for these and other ideas aimed at accomplishing the “revitalization of Main Street.”

Still, he said on Wednesday, he has won approval for city staffers to look into projects such as a monument in the middle of the intersection at Fourth and Main; a dedicated pedestrian route with historic plaques in strategic spots along the north side of Main Street; and the encouragement of more commercial businesses along the western end of the street as it approaches 7th Street. A $30,000 planning fund has been set aside for that purpose, and Vickery is eager to see the process begin.

Vickery and the other four council members spent several hours on Monday and all day Tuesday in their annual council “retreat.” It was a chance for them to get together outside of the hurly-burly of regular city business to talk about the city’s future in general terms, hear from city staff about the status of current projects, and set their priorities for the coming year.

By Tuesday evening, after hashing out everything from interpersonal gripes to policy critiques, the council had set its list for 1999.

At the top of the list is a push to move along with “upper valley transit,” first and foremost the planning for the troubled “Entrance to Aspen” project.

The other “Top Ten” priorities for the coming year include: n finishing the revisions to the Aspen Area Community Plan; pushing ahead with “regional transportation” planning; building affordable housing; establishing a “sacred open space plan” to prevent development of dedicated open spaces; coming up with a funding strategy for parks and recreation programs and projects; tackling “regional growth issues” in general; ensuring reauthorization of the city’s day care/housing sales tax; coming up with ways to encourage “traffic calming” and “pedestrian orientation” in the city; and finding ways to promote “transit-oriented development” in affordable housing projects, and increase the use of mass transit among residents of those projects. Although Vickery was happy with the outcome of the retreat, he said one of the issues he is most interested in did not make it onto the top ten. He wants the City Council to focus its energy on the upper end of Main Street.

“I see a lot of potential in the work on Main Street,” he said, adding, “I’m butting heads with Rachel [Richards] on this.” He said so far the only other council member who agrees with him is Jim Markalunas.

His desire for monuments in the middle of the intersection of Fourth and Main is his way of breaking up the invitingly open stretch of street that confronts a driver turning from Seventh onto Main.

“It encourages speed, just that perspective,” he said.

He said he has seen such monuments in streetscapes “all over Europe,” and recalled in particular one he saw last fall in Brussels, Belgium, a small statue named “Mannequin Pee.” He described it as a droll little figure “peeing” into a fountain pool, which is periodically dressed in costumes by citizens working under the cloak of night.

“They have fun with it,” he said, adding, “There’s a little bit of civic foolery going on there.”

He said the monument for Aspen should be of a more deliberately local flavor, created by a local artist.

“I’m pretty much into public art,” he explained. “One idea is [the monument could be dedicated] to Aspen’s eternal youth … or a monument to miners … it could be a statue to [Walter] Paepcke [the millionaire industrialist credited with revitalizing modern Aspen].”

As for the encouragement of commercial businesses at the western end of Main Street, he said they should be along the lines of flower shops, craft shops, health food stores and sewing shops. And the rents for these businesses, he said, should ideally be subject to “some kind of optional, voluntary rent control” to keep the spaces affordable.

“What this is about is assuring a sustainability,” he said. All in all, he said, he hopes to create pockets where “streetside activities” are encouraged.

“We want to get things turned to the streets, and start to create a neighborhood nucleus … a neighborhood hangout kind of thing.”

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