Obermeyer clears big hurdle
May 22, 2002
A proposal to redevelop one of Aspen’s last mixed-use areas made it over an important hurdle yesterday, setting the stage for conversion of a major street into a pedestrian extension of Rio Grande Park.
The Pitkin County commissioners informally agreed to a land swap with the city that would allow for the expansion of East Bleeker Street and the closure of Rio Grande Place, as part of the Obermeyer redevelopment proposal.
They also signed off on the relocation of the county-run recycling center and the eventual elimination of the city’s snow-melting machine. Additionally, the commissioners said they were interested in purchasing office space in the redeveloped Obermeyer property.
Yesterday’s meeting between representatives of landowner and sport clothing giant Klaus Obermeyer, city of Aspen staff members and the county was the first of what will likely be several work sessions on what’s been dubbed the Obermeyer project.
Obermeyer, who owns much of the industrial area between Main Street and Rio Grande Park, has proposed redeveloping his property in a way that accommodates the existing uses and adds free-market residential and office space in the new buildings.
Currently, Obermeyer’s tenants include a mix that ranges from a furniture repair and sales store to a flower shop to an auto repair shop. The property is one of two locations in the city zoned service/commercial/industrial, a classification that’s meant to be reserved for businesses that provide essential urban services. None of the current tenants would be permanently displaced by the redevelopment.
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A major component of the plan calls for the straightening and widening of East Bleeker Street, an alleylike road off of Rio Grande Place and connects with Spring Street.
The new Bleeker Street would become urban street, with parking and loading zones along the sides and two lanes of traffic. Although it wouldn’t be perfectly straight, it would be much more so than the current alignment. It would also allow for the closure of much of Rio Grande Place, which runs adjacent to the park.
Architect Bob Schiller said the new design will make it safer for skateboarders in particular, because the distance between the skatepark and the new road will be much greater. “We believe this design takes two streets that don’t work very well and turns them into one street that does work,” Schiller said.
The commissioners said they would be open to swapping the county parcel next to the jail for a city-owned parcel in order to make the proposal work. Commissioner Shellie Roy, who has been suspicious of land swaps with the city in the past, was in the hospital for knee surgery and could not attend yesterday’s meeting. If the swap goes through, the county would end up with an additional 240 square feet of land.
The commissioners said they were also willing to allow Obermeyer to move his buildings closer to Rio Grande Place than current regulations allow, because Obermeyer would be giving up some of his own land to widen East Bleeker Street.
Obermeyer is also offering an enclosed area to relocate the county’s recycling bins. The new recycling center would be a drive-in, drive-out location that takes up the ground level of one of Obermeyer’s smallest buildings.
County officials noted that the new site would accommodate all the necessary recycling containers and would allow for the installation of cameras, which might curtail illegal dumping of garbage at the site.
Finally, the county said it would be willing to work with the city to allow more of the snow removed from city streets to be dumped at the snow dump across from the airport. The cooperation may be needed so the city can get rid of the snow-melting machine next to the park. Like the existing recycling center, it is located on a stretch of Rio Grande Place that would be closed if the current proposal becomes reality.