Aspen City Council is reconsidering plans that would replace existing parking spots with a public landscaped area next to the new Aspen Art Museum after claims that the reduction in parking will impact local businesses.
Under the current plan, eight parking spots on the corner of Hyman Avenue and Spring Street would be replaced by a public area that would give the new 30,000-square-foot museum, which is currently under construction, a larger setback from the street.
Council approved the open space in conjunction with the art museum’s approval in 2010. Although the open space will be in front of the museum, the parking spots in question are included in the city’s new right of way and are not a part of the construction easement, noted Assistant City Manager Randy Ready.
Those parking spots are essential for businesses in the area and the neighborhood will struggle without them, argued longtime local Richie Cohen who has an office on Hyman Avenue. Cohen raised the issue during a public comment period at a City Council meeting last week.
Councilman Torre agreed that the loss of parking both from the project’s current construction and in the long term is a detriment to the community, he said.
“I think the impacts to the neighborhood have not been considered enough,” Torre said. “And I think that we could have done a better job at that and I apologize.”
Torre suggested that council hold a work session to discuss the issue.
The art museum’s construction company is paying $25 a day for each of the 17 spots it is currently using, said Tim Ware, director of the city’s parking department.
That includes the eight spaces that would be permanently replaced by the public area, Ware said. The parking department will continue to charge for the existing spots until they are officially removed from the inventory, he said. Each parking spot in downtown Aspen brings in about $6,500 annually, according to Ware.
The number of spots paid for can change on a daily basis depending on how many the construction company uses, he said. At least two additional parking spots adjacent to the art museum also are currently being used for construction related to a new building going up next door, Ware said.
Ready said the museum’s construction is planned to take about 18 months and should be finished in the spring of 2014. If construction activity uses all 17 spots during that time period, the company will end up paying about $233,000 in parking fees.
City staff is currently reviewing the original approval and council will reconsider its decision on the public space in a work session in the upcoming months, said city long-range planner Jessica Garrow.