Transit center back on plate in S’mass |

Transit center back on plate in S’mass

Sarah S. Chung

After years of bouncing back and forth between the public and private sectors, plans for a transit center near the Snowmass Village Mall seem to be back under the Town Council’s wing.

“There was an understanding five or six years ago that there was a need for a transit center,” said Councilman Kevin Costello. “The question was when to build it, who builds it, and who will pay what.”

The most recent designs for a transit plaza came from an engineering firm hired by the Snowmass Resort Association and mall businesses. The council has stepped in to take a lead role in the planning, using the plans developed for the businesses.

The latest proposal for the transit center puts the facility in parking lots six and seven, directly across from the Snowmass Village Mall.

Taking a spin off plans made years ago, MK Centennial has incorporated the town’s and businesses’ basic needs for more parking, bus storage, coordinated transportation, and office space into an ambitious proposal. It also includes a centralized loading and delivery facility, shops, conference facilities, and a new Town Hall.

Though the private sector turned to MK Centennial for the work, the planning is more appropriately a town function, reasons Councilman Doug Mercatoris.

“We feel that transportation, roads, and the replacement of parking displaced by a transit center are responsibilities of the town,” he said. “Also, we felt the current proposal was too large and needed to work more with plans for the base village.”

Mall businesses, however, are hardly taking a back seat in the planning.

According to SRA Vice President Jeff Tippet, the association “is very happy” with the development and has every intention of continuing to pursue a partnership with the town on the plaza.

Now that the town has committed to the actual transit platform, possible road realignment and the replacement of displaced parking, the private sector will focus on adding more parking than currently exists, Tippet said.

“This is exactly what we hoped would happen,” Tippet said. “With the town taking care of 100 percent of some aspects, we’ll look into taking on 100 percent of increasing parking, especially short-term spaces. It makes things very simple.”

How to finance the additional parking spaces is still an unanswered question, added Tippet. The formation of a business improvement district or fees for some of the parking are possible answers, he said.

One Town Council member, however, wants to make sure the plans don’t get ahead of the big picture.

“It’s very tough to move forward with any plan when we don’t have the base village in line,” said Jack Hatfield. “I think we can look at preliminary concepts and I have no problem moving with progressing conversations, but the reality check ought to measure up against what will occur at base village.”

However, after years of proposals, debate and even litigation, specifics on a base village development are far from concrete.

New base village plans from the partnership of the Aspen Skiing Co. and Snowmass Land Co. have yet to be submitted.

Hatfield hopes the town doesn’t preempt the base village with a mall transit center that’s completely out of scale.

“We need to get real on how the pieces will fit,” he said.

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