Millennium Plaza going slowly |

Millennium Plaza going slowly

ASPEN ” The wheels of progress are moving slowly at a construction site on a prominent corner in downtown Aspen.

Work appeared to have nearly come to a halt in recent months at what is known as Millennium Plaza, at the corner of Main and Galena streets. That’s partly because the owner, Millennium Plaza LLC, represented by managing partner Lowell Meyer, fired Silich Construction and hired Hansen Construction to complete the job.

Labor Source sued Silich Construction and a host of other involved entities in the construction project for nonpayment of $13,320. The case, filed July 23 in Pitkin County District Court, has been resolved.

Silich Construction owner John Silich said the money has been paid. He declined to comment on the details of his company’s status on the job, or the circumstances of no longer doing work there.

Basalt-based attorney Lucas Peck, representing Labor Source, also said the payment issue has been settled.

“It was handled professionally,” he said. “Everyone is happy with the result.”

The plans for the project call for commercial space on the first floor, three affordable-housing units on the second floor and one free-market condo on the third. The basement will be used for storage, said Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon.

Construction on the building began July, 12, 2006.

“For a relatively small project, it’s taking forever,” Bendon said.

But Robert Hempel, project manager for Hansen Construction, said work is ramping up and subcontractors are returning to the site.

“We are going to be back in full swing,” he said, adding Hansen Construction was awarded the contract in July. “Our biggest priority is to get the subcontractors working on the exterior and get the scaffolding down and minimize the impact to the public.”

Hempel said there have been some delays because his company is taking over someone else’s work. He also noted that progress on construction has been “a rough ride” for the building’s owners. He cited a difference of opinion and expectations between the owners and Silich as the driving force for the change in contractors.

The property has not been without controversy over the years.

The city approached the property owners about using the site for a new visitor center as part of a broader “civic center” master plan that looks at the future use of various public properties.

The planning effort was spurred by a leak in the roof of the Rio Grande parking garage. The roof is covered by what’s referred to as the “library plaza” ” an area of grass, seating and planters with trees next to the Pitkin County Library, and a stone’s throw from what was going to be the new visitor center.

Vocal opposition came from owners of the newly renovated Galena Lofts condos, located directly behind Millennium Plaza. Neighbors argued it would block views from many of the condos.

In 2004, opponents of the proposed visitor center building on that corner circulated a referendum that put a rezoning for the project on the November ballot. Voters rejected the rezoning ” and hence, the visitor center building ” by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

Property owners Meyer and Gary Freedman returned with plans to construct essentially the same building on the corner, but without the visitor center and Aspen Chamber Resort Association offices that were part of the former proposal. It required no rezoning; the council approved the plan on a 3-1 vote.

Hempel declined to speculate on when the project would be complete, and Meyer didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

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