Redevelopment erodes core values
December 5, 2007
From: Junee Kirk, Aspen
Re: Rio Grande Plaza, Zupancis property, etc.
The proposed redevelopment plans for the Rio Grande Plaza, Zupancis property and former youth center take place in a location that is the centerpiece of Aspen’s civic life. This could be the largest urban planning initiative in Aspen’s history. What the city and county governments, the art museum and library are all proposing is antithetical to our “core values,” which are preservation of open space, preservation of scale and character, preservation of historic monuments, and sustainability. To encourage more growth, development, and construction ” at a time when growth management and development restraints need to be considered as a “core value” ” is poor planning!
The city says it needs 20,000 square feet to consolidate departments so that the public does not have to run down one block to get their licenses in one location and then run back to another building to get their building permits in another location.
The county says it needs 64,000 square feet so most of the county employees who work in Aspen won’t have to commute. It wants all the departments of the county services to be centralized in one big facility. Really? Do we really want to centrally locate all our growing city and county government offices on the last remaining civic open space our locals and visitors enjoy? This is not Jefferson County, which centralized its county offices in an enormous justice center at the foothills of Denver, making it look so surreal and out of place that hardly anyone recognizes that they are still in the foothills. This is Aspen.
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The director of the Aspen Art Museum wants a more visible location for a new museum ” the former Youth Center, now Rio Grande building. This is so people will not have to walk a block down past the Rio Grande Park, wondering where exactly the museum is located. My suggestion is put up flagpoles with banners and enjoy a short, scenic walk through the park. People will find the museum.
The Aspen Art Museum has possibly one of the best historic facilities available for a museum. It is the envy of most small ski towns to have such an historic structure, which lends itself perfectly for a museum. It is a tall structure, with tall walls, minimal windows, and much indirect natural light. The museum is perfect for the present location! An addition to this existing museum would be a much better idea as was proposed by a former architect, planner Bill Weiner.
The library needs additional space for books and has the right to expand 44 feet out onto the open space above the parking garage. However, how about exploring an interior expansion on the mezzanine, before encroaching out onto the open space of the plaza?
Finally, the Aspen Chamber Resorts Association (ACRA) needs more space and at very minimum, bathrooms on location. Since this seems to be about the only realistic need and request made, the city should supply bathrooms for the visitors’ center coming to ACRA so they do not have to go into the adjoining buildings for these facilities.
In sum, the development plans for this site are over reaching and defy both the city and county’s concern for sustainability. It ignores existing uses of this property: county and civic meetings, which take place at the Rio Grande building. It ignores numerous non-profit arts groups and performing art groups, which use the space on a continual basis; and it ignores the fact that the public values open space and expansive mountain views on the only remaining civic center park, dear to visitors and residents of Aspen.