Letter: St. Mary proposal is misguided

The call-up of the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval of St. Mary Catholic Church conceptual review will be on the City Council agenda at 5 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers, basement level of City Hall.

I would like to voice my concern and disagreement with the Historic Preservation Commission’s narrow approval (4-3) of Option B, which moves the proposed pavilion entrance to a new location right on Main Street. Moving this overly modern, glass and steel structure to the most prominent location possible, along Main Street, will serve to block most if not all of the view of the west facade of the historic St. Mary Church building from the street. This approved Option B serves to block the public’s view of both the historic church building and the church lawn that have been an integral component of the site for generations.

The proposed entrance will detract from the historic property and grounds and will encroach into the courthouse view plane. Approval of Option B will also force the removal of at least some of the wrought-iron fence and as many as six lilacs from the front row along Main Street. Contrary to the spin being put forth, there are many St. Mary’s parishioners who are not in favor of the proposed plans.

The architectural style of the proposed building is incompatible with the historic St. Mary Church. The prominence and significance of this building and the site to the community, and it being one of the most significant historic buildings in all of Aspen, make it deserving of careful consideration by our elected officials. Both the built environment and the open space are key components of this historic parcel. The representation by staff that a “social hall” entrance facing Main Street should approximate a storefront is misguided and totally inappropriate for this parcel and its context in its historic block facing the Pitkin County Courthouse.

At the very least, all of the above-grade construction should be reduced considerably in size, be fully disconnected above grade from the church building and be located in the less prominent location along the alley, as submitted in the originally proposed Option A, fully out of the courthouse view plane.

Lisa Markalunas