Avon kick-starts plan to revitalize ‘La Zona’ in town core
The project will generate ideas for the area around the Rec Center, old fire station, Nottingham Park and Main Street Mall
The town of Avon is taking its first steps toward building a new vision for what it’s referring to as “La Zona.” This project will center around the old fire station site, Recreation Center, and Main Street Pedestrian Mall connection to Harry A. Nottingham Park.
This area of town has been ripe for discussion with the Town Council in the past, particularly with regard to the old fire station site, which was contemplated last year as both an affordable housing option and a possible community center.
In order to assist with the planning of not only the fire station but also the area surrounding it, the town has decided to hire a consultant to assist in the design and planning process. It selected landscape architecture firm Norris Design to lead a team to develop different options for civic use and developments in the area.
“We’ve recognized that there’s a huge diversity in what could possibly go there — from low-key outdoor court areas to complex housing, daycare, events center — and so we’ll look at that range,” said Eric Heil at the June 28 meeting. “But, we’re really relying on the consultants to put a little bit of design expertise and explain the footprint and parking impacts and some of those logistics so that everyone can get a better-informed sense of what could possibly fit there under the range of ideas that have been kicking around.”
The goal is that the project will connect these various areas within the town core and create a solid direction heading forward for the town.
“The purpose of the visioning phase of this project is to help the town determine the highest and best uses, including cost estimating and fit tests,” reads a report on the La Zona project. “Overall Town connectivity, wayfinding and multimodal transportation design will be considered in visioning exercises.”
The town has also asked Norris Design to include estimates for the “general magnitude of cost” for anything that is proposed, Heil said.
Matt Pielsticker, the town’s planning director, said this project is “hinged quite a bit on the Rec Center itself.” As such, the Town Council also discussed the results of a recent Rec Center survey in relation to the project.
“You’ll notice there’s a trend of the community asking for more, whether that’s more space, programming, more staff, what have you. We are happy to continue to entertain what we can within our existing budget, staffing constraints, etc.,” said Michael Labagh, the town’s recreation director, adding that the survey results would also be provided to Norris Design as a baseline for planning.
Based on the results of the survey, respondents — of which 86% were Eagle County residents — ranked indoor pickleball and tennis, expanded hours, more fitness classes and a full-size climbing wall as the most desired improvements.
For programming, respondents expressed a desire to see more fitness class variety, nutrition and wellness classes, individual fitness assessments and more outdoor programs and events. In terms of the facility itself, respondents ranked having an expanded fitness area, a renovated aquatics area and an expanded facility to include a gymnasium and walk/run track as top priorities.
As part of the planning, the town has also created a timeline for not only the feasibility, programming and conceptual planning phases — which will begin in July and take place through the fall — but also for facilitation and outreach. While the town is starting with Norris Design, it plans to host a number of community outreach events and open houses to discuss the project.
The first round of public input, Heil said, will be open to the general public, but also include the town’s Health Committee, CASE Committee, Planning Commission and Council.
“Once we get through this first round and throw some ideas out for everyone to see and react to, we’ll have a better sense of what direction we’re going from there,” he said. “It’s entirely open-ended as to what we might do with remodel or expansion of the Rec Center or reuse of the old fire station area. So until we get some ideas out and get some reaction to see where there might be consensus, it’s hard to predict which direction it will go.”
The town’s first open house on this project is currently planned for Sept. 15.
According to Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes, this will be the second time the town has hired a consultant for this area.
“We started this discussion when I first got on council with a different consultant about planning this area — we were looking at a larger area — and it’s great that we’re moving forward on yet another consultant to help us fine-tune what the community wants,” she said.
“I’m super excited, I would love to figure out what we’re doing there and I’m personally very interested to see what this new consultant is going to suggest about the old fire station because there’s been so many ideas about the best use for that space,” Smith Hymes later added.
When considering La Zona, the goal of the town is to help all these central town features and areas come together and create a more cohesive community center.
“La Zona is where it all comes together,” Pielsticker said. “(It’s) really the heart of Avon.”
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at email@example.com.