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The merits of underground parking in Aspen

I am writing in response to the letter in this newspaper from Grant Fiedler, Leysin, Switzerland, published Feb. 16, 2017 (“More cars to Aspen?”). In 1974 I became the chairman of the soon-to-become 12-member Aspen Mall Commission due to my discontent with the substandard temporary mall built with railroad ties on top of the original dirty, greasy streets with existing curbs and gutters.

I replaced Kiefer Mendenhall as chairman who, at the time, wanted to accommodate a request by the Paragon to install and operate an island bar in the middle of the mall on Hyman Avenue. I, conversely, was more interested in maintaining a family-oriented experience in the mall by creating a children’s play area, which eventually was incorporated in to the first phase plan for the mall and located at Wagner Park on the Mill Street side.

Even more important at the time was the desire by the Mall Commission to “enhance the pedestrian experience,” allow restaurants to extend in to the mall so long as they remain contiguous to its leased premises for a European-style outdoor dining experience, and enhance the environment for the summer music students who frequently performed, ad hoc, throughout downtown Aspen in the summer.



Grant’s proposal for a mall encompassing eight or nine city blocks was not acceptable to any of the retailers operating in those blocks at the time. The commission I led agreed to reduce the master plan to five blocks only, and build out just three of them as a first-phase entry into the future of the permanent mall.

Grant’s proposal for a parking garage under Wagner Park was, and is, meritorious. Clearly cars are here to stay, and the quicker they can go underground without circling the commercial core looking for a space, the better. That plan was also proposed by Richard Lai in 1959, a student of urban planning, in a project he created for his master’s degree. Whereas his plan called for a gondola to originate on top of the park terminating at the Sundeck, Grant’s proposal to retain the Rugby field would be the best option today. Grant is so correct in that below-ground parking is prevalent throughout Europe, and in my beloved hometown of San Francisco in the form of Union Square.



Donald J. Fleisher

Basalt


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