Outdoor hearth remains on front burner | AspenTimes.com

Outdoor hearth remains on front burner

Janet Urquhart

Empty chairs fill the corner of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street across from Paradise Bakery on Sunday afternoon. A fire hearth is planned near the spot, but construction might not get under way before winter. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

Aspen’s plan to have an outdoor hearth blazing on the mall by Thanksgiving has been snuffed, but the city Parks Department is still pushing to have passersby warming themselves in the hearth’s glow this winter.”The A-number one priority is the fire hearth. We’re really trying to get that done as soon as we can,” said Scott Chism, landscape architect and project manager for the Parks Department.The gas line to the hearth site – on the mall opposite Paradise Bakery – has been installed, and the city sought bids for its construction with the hope of having the hearth in place and fired up by Nov. 21.

Only one bid for the hearth and other mall projects came in, though, and the price was way over budget, according to Chism. The city put the projects out for bid a second time in hopes of receiving more competitive prices, but received just one proposal from the same contractor by Thursday’s deadline.”We’re now at a point where we have to negotiate with that one builder,” said Chism, who declined to reveal the city’s anticipated construction costs.The hearth is one of several “dwell” improvements slated for the pedestrian malls – amenities to encourage passersby to dwell, or hang out, downtown. The proliferation of city-purchased tables and chairs on the malls, and the flower planters, are part of the effort.

To be constructed along with the hearth is a new guest services pavilion, also to be located on the wide mall corner across from Paradise, and a couple of informational kiosks. A new bike rack design is also in the plan.”We may have to drop off the prototype bike rack and the kiosks. What we don’t want to do is redesign the pavilion building – that’s coming in with the biggest price tag,” Chism said.If the hearth proves a hit, another one is planned on the opposite end of the Hyman Avenue Mall, roughly across from the Wheeler Opera House. Chism is hoping the first hearth can be in place by late December or early January.

Last winter, the city borrowed propane-fueled warming devices, styled to resemble ore carts, from the Aspen Skiing Co. and scattered them on the malls to provide spots for pedestrians to gather and warm up on cold nights. The more volatile propane units require a Parks employee to patrol the malls and monitor the devices, according to Chism.Natural gas will fuel the hearth.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com