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Don’t ruin a good thing

Editor’s note: The following letter was written to members of the Aspen City Council.

Dear Editor:

I would like to comment on the extreme proposal by Councilmen Torre and Steve Skadron to reduce the maximum height for a commercial building in the Aspen core to 28 feet. This is the height of many two-story homes.

It seems this is a direct result of the new building approved on the corner of the Little Annie’s site.

There are several issues going on. First, just to refresh everyone’s memory, is that a group of local residents protested and insisted that the Benton Building and the Little Annie’s building be preserved even though the Historic Preservation Commission did not request it. With the city acquiescing to these few residents, the developer had the ability – again, by city zoning -to then negotiate what was left on the property to try and develop. And now the same few people are protesting the results.

The infill program that finally passed in 2005 allowed the first renovations and new buildings in almost 25 years and brought back vitality to a somewhat depressed core. For example, the Ute City restaurant building adds great vitality to “Restaurant Row” on Hopkins Avenue. The Limelight and Dancing Bear with Brexi on the street level brought life back into a very dead area on Monarch Street, where two dilapidated lodges from the 1950s were pretty dark.

As for the mayor’s reference to a dark space – the entire Crystal Palace building is not because of some developer “who wanted penthouses” but the creator of the fabulous Crystal Palace players, who saw business slowing and chose to close his once very successful venture and sell the building.

Infill allowed us to create vibrant retail space and restaurants on street level. The idea of “cold beds” is offensive. Most people happily shop and eat without knowledge that there is a penthouse on top of a building, which, by the way, might have been the catalyst financially so a new building could be constructed.

Obviously the economic collapse at the end of 2008 created some unfinished products in our town. You will note that this is now correcting.

It is the “rich” who the mayor refers to who allow all of us full-time residents to enjoy so many events that no other ski town can compete with – the music festival, Jazz Aspen, Theater in the Park, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, etc. Even the Wheeler Opera House and employee housing are paid for entirely with a tax by purchases of real estate in the town.

So please keep the happiness of the town in mind. It is jumping again, and everyone loves the experience. Even the Popcorn Wagon is reopening.

The more restrictions the city imposes, the less we will experience new stores, businesses, restaurants and jobs. Then we will be back to another 25 years of old, out-of-code buildings. Let’s keep the vitality that is happening now.

Lorrie B. Winnerman

Aspen


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