Reviled parking lot spurs changes
December 1, 2006
A midvalley parking lot infamous for its fender benders will soon get a face-lift.Officials representing the City Market in El Jebel said this week they will make their parking lot safer and a little less hectic when they undertake an expansion this winter.City Market’s parent company, Kroger, is going to add 9,040 square feet to its 53,000-square-foot supermarket in El Jebel. More space will expand departments, add a specialty meat counter and may introduce a Starbucks, according to City Market officials.When the application came before the Basalt Town Council for review, some residents and council members jumped at the opportunity to press the company to change its parking lot. Former Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt complained the parking lot for City Market and adjacent businesses is unsafe for pedestrians because they have to walk between rows of vehicles parked at 90-degree angles. Traffic also flows both ways on the parking lot’s narrow roads.Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda said the parking lot has the highest number of vehicle collisions in Basalt. His statistics showed 151 fender benders in the parking lot over the past five years. The lot has accounted for between 16 and 33 percent of all accidents in Basalt in each of the last five years.Whitsitt lobbied for sidewalks between the rows of cars so people could walk to businesses safely. Ikeda suggested one-way traffic would improve safety. Council members agreed something needed to be done.City Market came up with a way to accommodate both requests. It’s switching back to 60-degree-angle parking, which is Kroger’s standard, according to Jeff Pelaez, an architect for the company. The El Jebel store originally had 60-degree parking, but it switched to 90-degree parking during a restriping several years ago.The lot will lose 14 spaces because of the switch, but it will still exceed Basalt’s land-use code requirement by 14 spaces. The expansion on the rear, or south, of the building will eliminate 24 spaces, which employees primarily use. Workers will be required to use the remaining spaces at the rear of the building and spaces farthest from City Market in the main lot, Pelaez said.City Market also agreed to include 10-foot sidewalks between the rows of parked cars, although the council was divided on whether customers will use them. The sidewalks are regarded as a trail.The parking lot overhaul also will require one-way traffic similar to parking lots at many urban shopping centers. This allows motorists backing out of parking spaces to only look for traffic in one direction. But, a disadvantage is more traffic must pass the front entrance and mix with pedestrians.Ikeda predicted there will be congestion and consternation for one month, then it will improve: “Sooner or later everybody figures out how to get through the mousetrap,” he said.City Market plans to break ground this winter.Scott Condon’s e-mail address email@example.com.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.