Aspen City Council gave the green light to a minimalistic redesign of Galena Plaza in a work session on Tuesday, despite unanswered questions on how the project will accommodate parking spaces for law enforcement.
The proposed design is a simplified version of a plan that was presented to council in September. It includes 4,000 square feet of additional lawn space, stadium seating and two performance spaces. It also transforms the alley south of the park, known as Library Walk, into a pedestrian-friendly environment with lighting and banners. Items that were removed from earlier proposals include an elevator observation tower, a children’s play area, a grand stairway and the majority of parking spaces for law enforcement.
The space in question sits on top of the city’s Rio Grande parking garage, which has leaks that could compromise the building’s structure. The park’s redesign will take place in conjunction with garage repairs.
Council members agreed that the simpler version of the proposed redesign is better than previous renditions, which were too complicated, but they questioned whether more parking spaces should be included for law enforcement. Galena Plaza is directly adjacent to buildings that house the jail, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department. The proposed design has only a couple of parking spots dedicated for officers.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, who was in attendance, spoke against the design due to its lack of parking. There is already not enough parking spaces in the area to accommodate both Pitkin County deputies and Aspen police, DiSalvo said. At any time there should be at least six spaces next to the courthouse so that deputies on duty can respond quickly to an incident, he said. He didn’t know how many spots Aspen police required, he said. The parking lot behind the courthouse and jail buildings is grossly inadequate to accommodate all of the county and city employees that use the facilities, DiSalvo added.
Mayor Mick Ireland said that it was impossible to give planners direction on how many parking spots to include in the redesign, because council does not have enough information on how many spaces both departments need, he said.
Not every officer on duty needs a parking space right in front of where they work, but having a few available seems reasonable, he said. Council members Torre, Derek Johnson and Adam Frisch agreed that number should be determined by collaborating with the stakeholders.
City planners agreed to work with the departments to determine how many spots are necessary to include in the design.
Meanwhile, head Pitkin County librarian Kathy Chandler, who also attended the work session, asked that city planners be mindful of the library’s 44-foot easement, which juts out over the west side of the plaza. The current proposal has potted plants in the easement’s allotted space. The library has no current plans to expand after voters shot down a $10-million project to grow the facility by 7,000 square feet last November, but in a few years library officials might decide to move forward with development, she said.
The library plans to fund additional support structures that will be installed in the parking garage underneath Galena Plaza during the structure’s repairs, Chandler said. That will make it easier to build on top of the plaza in case the library decides to expand in the future, she said.
Ireland compared it to installing piers for a bridge that might not be built, but he understood it was worth the risk in the long term, he said.
If library officials decided to expand the facility using only the easement, they would likely not be required to go before council for approval, said John Laatsch, the city’s project manager.
City planners will hold an open house on a date that has not been announced to present the design to the community. Planners will continue to work toward finalizing details of the redesign, which they hope to complete by the end of the year. Construction on the project is planned for 2014.