New city of Aspen office plan is questionable
I’d like to echo Lorenzo Semple’s doubts in his recent Daily News column about the wisdom of the city’s new office plan, but for a different reason. I believe the city made a huge, but still reversible, mistake when it decided to drop the idea of vacating the existing City Hall in its plans for new city offices. Others have broached this subject before: City Hall has astounding potential as a hub of vitality for downtown, if only it could return to its former purpose as a public space. However, I don’t think we need more meeting rooms or performance halls—we’re adequately served there. Instead Aspen should make room for a permanent public market—our own Faneuil Hall or Pike Place. The Aspen Saturday Market has proven its worth as a dynamo of vitality and diversity. City Hall (aka the Armory) should become a more permanent extension of this concept. Existing business owners may fear unfairness in rents, but I’d offer them first right of refusal for one of the small stalls in the Market. Eventually, the alternative of affordable public market stalls could actually exert a downward pull on downtown rents. But most importantly, the market would be an incubator for local small business, a fount of creativity, liveliness, and local color, and a counterforce to the fierce winds of inequality that increasingly cut small entrepreneurs off from Aspen’s prosperity. A project that only serves Aspen’s bureaucratic apparatus will never be popular with voters. Let’s instead find a way to turn necessity into transformative placemaking.
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