Aspen City Council reacted favorably to allowing the Hyatt Grand Aspen to use its private parking facility for skiers this winter.
Aspen has allowed valet companies to use downtown parking spaces for their operations in years past, and in recent winters expanded valet service to the corner of Hunter Street and Durant Avenue, directly across from the Silver Queen Gondola. But the current council, during budget meetings last month, took issue with public parking spaces so close to the gondola being used for valet staging.
Parking Director Mitch Osur told the council during a work session Monday night that representatives of the Hyatt, which operates a fractional ownership residence club on Dean Street a block from the gondola, must have been watching those meetings.
“Oddly enough, the next day the Hyatt reached out, and they have 30 to 40 extra parking spaces all of the time and they said, “Would you guys be interested in letting us rent those by the day or the month?’” Osur said.
The Hyatt is not zoned to operate a commercial valet service, so the council would need to grant a temporary use permit for the winter season to allow the new business operation to occur. Interim Community Development Director Jen Phelan told council that an application is expected to be presented during the Dec. 17 meeting.
“If it’s successful and they want to do this as a more permanent option then it would come back as an actual amendment to the Grand Hyatt approvals,“ Phelan explained.
Osur said in preliminary talks with the Hyatt, they’ve said they would charge $40 a day for the service, which matches the rates of the previous valet operations in the core. He said they are also looking at the possibility of renting out about 10 spaces at a monthly rate that they have not yet calculated.
“Particularly for big skiers that ski maybe four or five times a week, it may be worth the money to have a spot to park right near the gondola,” he said.
Councilmember Ward Hauenstein said he was more partial to the day rate.
“I’d like to encourage them if possible not to rent them out all long term. As soon as you offer them long term they will be all gobbled up is my guess,” Hauenstein said.
Overall though, the council applauded the proposal and encouraged the Hyatt to submit the application.
“I think it’s great that the private sector comes up with a solution that we don’t lose any parking spaces anywhere in the core,” Hauenstein said.
Previous valet companies have been able to park up to 32 cars at a time using the Rio Grande Parking Garage. There has been a stand in front of the Caribou Club and a couple of spaces directly in front of the gondola used for a valet service that had a contract with the city.
Osur told the council that the Hyatt will likely use its own bellmen to operate the service, rather than contract with one of the local valet operators who have done the driving in the past.
“It cuts down the revenue if they do the valet company. They think they can do it themselves with their location,” Osur said.
Councilmembers Ann Mullins and Rachel Richards both voiced concern for the type of signage that would go along with the relocation. Osur said the hotel is working out those details before submitting the temporary use application. Richards said she wants the sign to illustrate that the parking is for skiers, and not to use the term “public parking” which could confuse drivers who are looking for cheaper, short-term parking in town.
“The valet doesn't feel like public parking at $40 a day,” Richards said.
She also told Osur that the hotel needs to have a fail safe that ensures they don't overpark their garage to the extent that guests end up needing to park on the street, resulting in a net zero parking gain.
Mayor Torre encouraged Osur to reach out to other area hotels and see if they are interested in a similar setup. The St. Regis, Little Nell and W Aspen all have parking facilities associated with their lodges.
“This is another good move by the government to put the word out there and try to partner,” Torre said.