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More housing or a garage?

John Colson

If it came down to a choice between a two-story parking garage or 100 or more affordable housing units for local workers, which would you choose?

The Aspen City Council chose not to make that choice when it came up Tuesday night during talks about plans to add 100 units or so to the Truscott Place affordable housing complex next to the Aspen Golf Course. The proposal includes renovating the existing 50 units on the north side of the road that runs through the complex.

Instead of choosing, the council has the city’s staff working on two different Truscott plans at one time.

The estimated cost of the project is $17.2 million including the cost of the housing units and the parking garage.

Additional plans call for redevelopment of the old “Red Roof Inn” apartments on the other side of Truscott Road, known as Phase 3 of the overall project, but not for six more years. So the costs of Phase 3 were not included in Tuesday’s estimates.

The trade-off between parking and housing arose because council members had complained that early versions of the project devoted too much ground to parking spaces right next to the homes.

City staffers told the council it would cost roughly $9 million to built a double-decker parking lot at the golf course, which would take most of the parking away from the area around the homes and provide considerably more green and open spaces.

But, according to estimates provided by the city’s finance department, that $9 million should be viewed as money taken away from the affordable housing program, which staffers said would represent as many as 192 bedrooms that could not be built.

“I’d rather house people than cars any day,” declared Councilman Jim Markalunas.

But others were not so quick to agree, including staunch automobile critic Terry Paulson, who joined Richards in reasoning that residents’ cars must be stored somewhere, even if they are rarely used because people are using mass transit.

Councilman Tony Hershey, usually very pro-automobile, joked at one point, “I’ve got Terry Paulson over here almost ready to vote for a parking garage!” as he vacillated over the question because of the costs involved.

Hershey finally sided with Mayor Richards and Paulson to go ahead with the project with the parking garage included.

But Richards directed staffers to continue working on a plan without the garage, just in case it becomes obvious that the garage is too expensive and the costs cannot be offset by other sources of revenue, such as the sale of some units to local businesses.


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