Conference center won't work as designed

Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009 12:44 AM

I am becoming increasingly concerned about the wisdom of decisions regarding the growth of Durango. I have always been of the mind that those closely involved were best suited to see that things were done right. It is my opinion that city design and growth is a process based on experience, evidence of what works and viable studies. I am an industrial designer by degree and though I have never worked with a city, I have worked with many factory plant and corporation projects.

I had the privilege of seeing the plan for the hotel/conference center and saw a 220-room hotel, 21,500-square-foot conference center, 100-seat restaurant, 9,000-square-foot retail and 15,000-square-foot office space supported by only 150 on-site parking spaces and 150 spaces in a parking structure two blocks away. The plan projects fully utilized parking spaces from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in peak season, allotting 65 spaces for conference center attendees.

Suppose I plan an afternoon wedding for 400 people with four people per car. My event requires 100 parking spaces, however only 65 are available and the rest are two blocks away. Guests won't walk, and if any other event is scheduled at this time - a circumstance I cannot control - where would they park? So I will not use this facility because I cannot. Adequate parking is essential for a successful conference center - without it, people will not come.

I was at wine tasting at the DoubleTree Hotel, in the shoulder season. Arriving on time, I found two parking spaces left. Take a good look at that parking lot compared with the facility - 259 spaces and 159 rooms - and know that I am not just complaining. I want a successful convention center in Durango. It's long overdue, but the design of this complex is irresponsibly unacceptable.

This project requires redesign to accommodate these visitors while allowing the Durango businesses that have invested in it to thrive with tourists and locals alike.

Ricci Dawson, Durango