Aspen soon will become city under siege with another round of construction
August 30, 2018
If locals think this past spring was bad with construction taking over Aspen, they can brace themselves for more of the same — or worse — in the coming months.
There are more than a dozen projects, both public and private, that will encroach into rights of way all over the city during the offseason.
City Engineer Trish Aragon said this week she recognizes that it is a lot of impact at once but the nature of Aspen's resort community high seasons offer little time to get the necessary work done.
"We allow these projects to go four months a year," she said, adding there is a bright side since many communities deal with construction year-round. "It's kind of nice for the community to get the reprieve."
Looking ahead to the next three months, the project that will have the greatest impact is the resumption Tuesday of work on the Castle Creek Bridge.
Most of the other projects will occur in the downtown core, including the renovation of the historic Crystal Palace that developer Mark Hunt is scheduled to begin in November.
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The property, located on Hyman Avenue, will become a boutique hotel. The project is scheduled to last at least 18 months and will have some intense impacts to the corner of Monarch Street and Hyman, Aragon said.
"What makes this unique is in order to save the walls, it requires bracing," she said, adding that it will impede traffic in portions of both streets.
Aragon said there is not a plan yet for how to circulate traffic on Hyman or Monarch, but there likely will be a significant change to accommodate construction vehicles, as well as a crane.
"What Hyman is going to look like I don't know yet," she said earlier this week. "Hyman is a narrow street anyway, so it's going to be tight."
Barriers will be placed in the street to provide pedestrian thoroughfares, and sound walls will be put up around the project.
Starting in September, traffic also will be affected on Durant Avenue as part of the W Hotel project, which is replacing the Sky Hotel. That project started in May 2017 and is scheduled to finish next spring.
Crews will be doing public improvements around the project, which include utility work, sidewalks and paving.
"They will be alternating one-way traffic on Durant during the day and at night, they'll open it to two-way traffic," Aragon said.
Also this fall, St. Mary Catholic Church will encroach into the right of way on Main Street near Hunter Street to redo the front steps to the building.
There will be some impacts a block up on Hunter Street, where the electric department will be doing work in the alley and road near Kenichi restaurant to improve lighting in the area.
And the work that has been ongoing at the former site of the Hotel Lenado on the corner of Aspen Street and Hopkins Avenue will continue to impede Aspen Street and the alley.
"They don't plan on being finished until the spring," Aragon said.
The city itself has three projects going on in September: A new bus stop and sidewalk will be built at Galena and Main streets, and there are improvements happening to the trail behind the post office and also on King Street.
Just outside of the commercial core, utility work for Timberline Bank, located at 122 W. Main St., will impact traffic for a few days, as well.
Farther west, the Mesa Store renovation will require construction activity in the bus lane on Main Street, as well as on Fifth Street.
That corner is the start of the outbound detour for the Castle Creek Bridge and Hallam corridor project, which resumes Tuesday after stopping during the summer season.
"We will have to modify the detour," Aragon said. "That will be tricky."
Managing the entire roadway section between Fifth Street and the bridge will prove challenging, as four other projects are occurring within a three-block area.
The city will be replacing the asphalt with concrete at the eastern S-curve at Seventh and Main streets.
Nearby, pre-construction activity and demolition of an existing structure at 802 W. Main St. will start to make way for an affordable-housing project.
Around the second S-curve to the west, subdivision improvements will occur on Seventh Street for home sites sold by the U.S. Forest Service.
And a block to the west, part of the old Poppies restaurant will be demolished so an affordable-housing complex can be built on the property.
Construction also has begun on a new ambulance facility near Aspen Valley Hospital. The bus stop on Doolittle Drive has been temporarily relocated so utility work can occur.
Aragon said the amount of work being done in the coming offseason is on par with what occurred in April, May and June this year. She added that the city does try to stagger the number of encroachments limit the amount of work in rights of way.
The intensity of construction this past spring did not go unnoticed by Aspen's elected leaders.
Councilman Adam Frisch said during a public meeting in May that he wants the city to be more cognizant of how much construction is occurring and try to limit it when possible.
"I'm not sure if there is anything we can do for May of 2019 … to make some type of commitment to slow it down," he said, adding it felt like it was a record offseason in terms of construction. "I've heard from a lot of people … it's hard to see it getting much worse, I hope."
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