Parking crunch at Clark’s Market
ASPEN Warm temperatures and summer traffic in Aspen means one thing: Its getting harder to find a place to park.And nowhere is the crunch felt more than at the busy plaza near Clarks Market.At lunchtime on most days, heavy vehicle traffic in and out of the commercial plaza leaves would-be shoppers circling the lot for a space, area retailers said.The landlord for the area, M&W Properties, recently imposed new parking restrictions designed to create more spaces for shoppers.But Puppy Smith LLC, owners of the commercial development, recently proposed a new building at the corner of Mill and Puppy Smith that will take up half the parking lot and cut parking from 112 spaces to just 60.The proposed new building, which won conceptual approval from the citys Planning and Zoning Commission, will go before City Council for conceptual review on June 9. In a March letter to all commercial tenants of the Puppy Smith Building, which is home to Clarks and Ace Hardware, officials from M&W Properties told tenants that they would no longer be issued commercial parking passes as they had in the past (usually two passes per business to be used by employees).The landlord also shortened the time people can park in the lot from two hours to one hour, and have hired a contractor to enforce parking restrictions using a parking boot, according to retailers.When reached by phone, officials from M&W Properties would not comment. Commercial tenants, however, offered a mixed reaction.While some believe the new restrictions will mean more parking for customers, others are concerned for their delivery vehicles or space for employees to park.I understand the one-hour thing, said Greg Topper, chef and owner of Toppers, who said for years the commercial parking lot near Clarks has been abused by hikers and people leaving their vehicles to shop in the downtown core.But Topper is frustrated, saying that some of his customers can easily spend a two-hour lunch at his restaurant, and hes not looking forward to seeing his first customer booted.Topper said the parking restrictions mean frustrations and expense for downvalley employees wholl have to pay hefty parking fees or spend time moving their vehicles.And Topper is not hot on the possibility of a large new building taking up sought-after parking space.I can just foresee a big mess, Topper said. Taking space away thats not a good idea.Tina Dennison, an employee at Sashae Floral Arts and Gifts, said that she regularly has to drive to work from her home near the Aspen Airport Business Center.The new restrictions, however, mean she is forced to park on residential streets, and she said her vehicle was recently vandalized near Hunter Creek.Its gotten to be a nightmare, Dennison said, adding that she cant afford the hefty $200-per-month fee for unlimited parking in the nearby garage.Heather Kemp, owner of Sashae, said that while parking restrictions are frustrating to her employees, she supports providing more spaces to customers.I think this will be a benefit, Kemp said.Kemp lobbied her landlord for one space to park a delivery vehicle, she said.Bill Reilly, a manager at Aspen Wine and Spirits, said hes brokered a similar deal with M&W, and said most of his employees walk to work, so the new restrictions dont affect his business.Tony Wells, part-owner of the Ace Hardware store below Clarks, said he supports anything that frees up parking for customers.M&W is allowing Ace staff to park one delivery vehicle in the lot, and Wells said he keeps a second delivery truck roving throughout the day.Wells would not comment on the proposed new building, but said he is concerned about having enough space for the many large delivery trucks that are already squeezed in the narrow firstname.lastname@example.org
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This summer in Aspen is likely to include indoor and outdoor concerts, maskless gatherings and no state or county-mandated restrictions on social distancing at restaurants or anywhere else.