City of Aspen to spend $1M for schematic design for new walking malls

Aspen City Council on Tuesday approved a nearly $1 million contract with Design Workshop to produce schematic designs as part of the repairs that will be done on the downtown pedestrian malls.

It’s a scaled-back version directed by council in September when it rejected a proposed conceptual design that included major changes to the mall, like moving the bathrooms at Wagner Park and other cosmetic alterations.

Based on a previous council’s direction, Design Workshop earlier this year proposed a conceptual design for the mall project.

But the current council agreed to a $988,000 schematic design contract rather than a previous administration’s $3.8 million plan.

What the next phase of work will accomplish is provide guidelines for private developers on how to redevelop buildings so they match up with the city’s specifications on things like grading and bricks, Americans with Disabilities Act compliancy, as well as storm water and utility upgrades.

The city is anticipating that private developers will redevelop three quarters of Aspen’s pedestrian malls in the coming years.

And with delays in the overall project, officials want guidelines in place prior to development, according to Michelle Bonfils Thibeault, project manager in the city’s capital asset department.

Besides trying to time improving the condition of the aging malls with future development, underground utilities and ADA access are driving what will be a very expensive and time consuming project for the city.

The mall’s surface is more than 40 years old and some of the underground infrastructure hasn’t been touched in six decades.

Additionally, the 320,000 bricks originally laid down in 1976 are deteriorating and need to be replaced, even though there are fewer than 30,000 left and will only last a few more years, according to Thibeault.