The $8,000 lunch
Last week, I attended the ZG master plan presentation at the Jerome Hotel, which included a “free” lunch. (FYI: At $45 a plate ” estimated to cost the taxpayers about $8,000). Proving once again: There is no such thing as a free lunch. I only hope whoever planned this is not the ZG master planner.
Well intentioned, and visually impressive, the ZG master plan is the biggest development project on the horizon with impacts that will dwarf the Wienerstube and Cooper Street projects, recently rejected by City Council, and everything else that will be rejected by the current council for the next 15 months.
After reading both local newspaper stories the next day I figured I must have been at a different meeting. The question the press should have asked was, “who voted?” Because the room filled with lots of city and country employees ” remember the “free lunch” ” the reported vote was so skewed its value is minimal at best. I would have liked to see the room divided into groups. I would have liked to see how the general public voted, as opposed to co-mingling all the votes. I would like to know how many of those voting actually lived in Aspen. Of course, if those in charge were looking for a pre-determined outcome ” that’s the way I’d do it.
The portion of the project I don’t like is what a group of officials from the city and county are trying to slip by us in respect to office space for the county. It seems they want to build about 60,000 square feet, replacing their current building and putting a new building on the Zupancis portion of the site. (FYI: When asked at the meeting about the square footage, we were told it wasn’t calculated as of yet. Hey ” all you had to do was push a button on your design program). Besides, how do you plan a series of buildings, and then 3-D them, without knowing the square footage? It was all a little slippery for my way of thinking.
Certain city and county officials are trying to build office space by hiding it behind the idea the county seat needs to be in town. That was working for a while, until Brian Pettit (who works for the county) pointed out the county seat would always be in Aspen, and the real question is how much office space will be built downtown? (Instead of affordable housing.) It seems obvious the offices proposed would be better suited to land at the ABC, which the county already owns. (According to an independent survey, over 80 percent of current county employees working in Aspen would rather it be at the ABC ” less of a drive.) As far as people commuting to the ABC, think reverse commute. Also keep in mind we are in a tech age where almost everything can be done online or with video conferencing.
While new restaurants enter the Aspen scene, there are several spaces that will remain empty this winter. Meanwhile, the retail market remains extremely hot.