Interest growing in 7th & Main store |

Interest growing in 7th & Main store

Janet Urquhart

It appears Aspen will have some takers for the first corner store it has ever tried to put in an affordable housing project.The small commercial space in the Seventh and Main housing project, now under construction on the corner for which it’s named, has attracted interest from about 10 parties so far, according to Lee Novak, project manager with the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.Novak is accepting proposals for use of the space until Jan. 15. So far, he said, he has heard some innovative ideas. The housing office has set few parameters on what it envisions for the space in order to make room for whatever ideas are out there, Novak said.”We’re really wide open. I don’t want to say `this is what we want’ and eliminate any fun ideas that might be really different,” he said.A committee will review proposals for the space and make a recommendation to the Aspen City Council, which will select the lessee.The 650-square-foot store, with 250 square feet of basement storage space, was a hotly debated component of the 11-unit housing project. Proponents hope the commercial venture will give neighborhood residents a place to shop for basic goods instead of getting in their cars and driving to one of Aspen’s two supermarkets.The housing project itself contains no on-site parking. Its auto-free nature led to the proposed store, where residents can grab a quart of milk, toilet paper and the like.”The goals are, one, to reduce the number of trips, and two, to provide a community focal point,” Novak said. “We’re trying to incorporate this fundamental part of a pedestrian community that doesn’t exist in a suburban community.”One of the ideas we had was that it would be a Zélè sort of place that would also sell assorted sundries,” he said, referring to a downtown Aspen coffee shop.The space won’t contain a commercial kitchen, but it will be possible to put some seating inside, where patrons could read a paper, sip coffee and munch simple food prepared off-site, Novak said.The store is expected to serve the greater neighborhood. It is also halfway between the Marolt housing and the Music Tent, making it a logical stop for music students in the summer months, Novak noted.”No business can serve just Seventh and Main and work,” he said.If the store doesn’t prove financially viable, the space could become the 12th housing unit in the project.”If it doesn’t go, you pop out some windows, put in some drywall and make it a unit and sell it,” Novak said. “It was designed to do that.”Novak expects construction of Seventh and Main to wrap up as early as June.

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