As Told To Etta Meyer | December 12, 2017 | People
In anticipation of this issue we spent weeks talking with visionaries from a cross-section of the Aspen community. Here is a small sample of the big questions, challenges, predictions and contradictions that were raised. What do you think Aspen could be in 20 years? The conversation is just getting started.
Colorado is booming, as is adventure travel. Assuming over the next two decades, Aspen continues to be a desirable place to visit and to live, the perennial question remains: How do we think about growth? If we believe the people who provide services here should live here too—where do we put them? Do we sprawl down valley? Does Aspen— gasp—grow taller, allowing density in the core? How do we keep that Aspen je ne sais quoi?
Brooke Peterson: Will we get taller? I don’t know. But I do see that we’re already in a situation where we have a lot of aging condominiums. You can only refurbish and paint them so much before you have to start to consider, maybe it’s time to rebuild them. A lot of these were built in the late ’60s or early ’70s. I think from a strictly real estate perspective, in the next 20 years we’re going to face that redevelopment question quite a bit in downtown and in the areas where we have a lot of multifamily structures.
Charles Cunniffe: If you go to any first-class resort in the world you’re going to see a grand hotel. In the Alps they consider the base of the ski areas precious commodities for the vitality of the resort. They encourage intense density at the base of their mountains. [Aspen historically shied away from this approach.] … Personally, I think density is good, and simultaneous with wanting to limit traffic congestion is allowing more opportunity for people to stay and live where they work. Some growth is good, some is not. We as a community have spoken so much against other communities that suffer from sprawl and we do it to ourselves.
Michael Kaplan: Saying no to a development, a project, a concept is saying yes to something else. And, unfortunately, it’s not a multiple-choice question. You don’t always get to see what those choices are. But it does mean that we as a community have to be really thoughtful about not only what we are saying no to, but what we are saying yes to. [Speaking about growth and development in the context of the South Aspen Street neighborhood at an annual Aspen Chamber event in September.]
Heidi Zuckerman: Maybe… If I had to choose, I would rather go higher than have sprawl. I would like to protect the trails of Independence Pass, Hunter Creek, etc. ... I think that [sprawl] has been a mistake in a lot of cities because I don’t think people actually like being away from the action… You run into people when you’re downtown because you can see them. You can see them on the other side of the street. There’s not a bunch of lanes and traffic. There’s an intimacy. If you could get an urban intimacy, I think that would be awesome.
Peterson: One of our biggest challenges will be to give that next generation the opportunity to live here. The future of Aspen is about preservation and sustainable growth.
Cunniffe: One of the ways I can see where we can bridge the gap between what we are talking about in creating opportunities for kids, and bringing young, energetic people to our community, is by having Colorado Mountain College become a truly residential campus. You get young people with an entry-level opportunity through education and career development, technical skills, innovative skills, and then they find traction in a way to stay in the community. Thereby, the whole community is made better because you bring in young individuals who want to balance their careerbuilding and skill-building years with an opportunity to live in a community that they think they would like to stay in. You need to start by giving somebody the opportunity, and college is the best place to do that.
Zuckerman: I think that ideas are the currency of the future. If you’re being visionary intentionally or unintentionally, you have to think about the need that you’re trying to solve or the itch that you’re trying to scratch. Do not think about, at least originally, the ‘how.’ I think it’s important to think about the ‘why.’
What if we put two floors of employee housing on the roof of each building? What if Aspen stayed exactly the same as it is now? Same height, same population.
Genna Moe: As more Latino kids grow up and graduate from school in the valley, we will see more Latinos in leadership—and women in leadership.
Bob Bowden: El Jebel will become the epicenter of the entire valley. It’s already happening because of the year-round population there. You need things like infrastructure for sports; you need performing arts centers. As an example, I think that we could have a tremendous sports facility. Something for all the kids to use year-round that would be a field house with ice rinks, etc. The most natural place to do that, of course, is in the middle of the valley.
Rose Abello: Snowmass will be as vital and relevant in summer as it is in winter. High occupancy year-round is not a goal, but there is huge opportunity for energy in summer and winter. [The current $600 million development of] Base Village is just the first domino for new investment and energy.
Nearly everyone we spoke to expressed in some way that the future will be about the valley as an interconnected system; that Aspen will always be the hub of the resort economy—the ‘Manhattan’ to Basalt’s and Carbondale’s ‘Brooklyn.’
Bowden: Aspen could become a bit of the ‘Central Park’ of the valley. There are homes on the park in New York, but mostly it will become the place people go to and enjoy, to see and do things, and to ski.
Moe: What we need is more master planning down valley. I imagine the valley connecting, the borders of each town getting closer together.
Kitty Boone: Water, transportation, education, intergovernmental organization, the whole valley needs to talk.
Bowden: To put this in perspective, when I first came here [33 years ago] Highway 82 was a two-lane, not-so-good road. It was an all-day event to get to Glenwood. It was a long-distance call to Carbondale.
Boone: I hope we always attract people who are passionate about their work and their community. That we continue to be a place where ideas can flourish.
Alan Fletcher: Aspen is a world center of so many things, especially philanthropy. The support of nonprofits here is phenomenal. For a town of 6,000, our resources in terms of our people rivals that of a big city. That’s just something I’m grateful for all the time.
Jimmy Yeager: Aspen in 2037 needs to be smarter than it is today. We need to keep a focus on education.
Michael Goldberg: I’d like to see more great restaurants in Aspen and more of a mass of things to do here. Entrepreneurship in Aspen works if you have the right idea; you have to have a concept that allows you to compete. People will show up for good content.
Jeffrey Gorsuch: Aspen in 20 years? I’m betting on it.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY IGOR PROKHORKO-GEVONSHYR