Visitor center concerns
I am concerned with the direction that the proposed Aspen visitor center project has taken. It appears the city and the developer are rushing the process as well as manipulating rules and regulations.
Currently, as the building is planned, Lowell Meyer and Millennium Partners, LLC stand to make a significant financial profit while exceeding height limits and without the required affordable housing units or designated parking for its free-market units. The citizens of Aspen will lose a number of trees, some of the remaining downtown open space and views of Aspen and Shadow mountains.
If the need for a new visitor center has been determined by a fair and thorough evaluation, the city should strive to design a structure that fully meets the needs of visitors to Aspen. If the corner of Main and Galena has been chosen, by the same process, as the optimum location, the city should take into consideration the environmental issues and try to come up with a solution.
As it stands now, not only does the location seem to have drawbacks, the plan for the visitor center itself is inadequate in size and fails to provide needed improvements over the existing center. As I understand, these are the reasons to consider this project so additional time should be spent on planning a more functional center.
The city would have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking this time to consider these crucial elements. Also, keeping the trees and retaining the green space for pedestrians to gather would demonstrate that a development project like this can be done while preserving what is of utmost importance to the voters and citizens of Aspen.
If this project continues on its present course, resentment and backlash will almost certainly occur when the public realizes what has been lost and cannot be regained.
I would like to propose that the city consider outright purchase of the Lowell Meyer property. This would be a win-win solution for Aspen and the developer. Mr. Meyer would still profit significantly from the sale of property he could not otherwise develop easily.
The city could then plan and construct a first-rate visitor center while addressing citizens’ concerns. The City Council would be applauded for demonstrating its sensitivity to the existing regulations and illustrating their concern for the wishes of the people who elected them.
Charles G. Caldwell
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