Representatives from the Hotel Aspen will expect to meet with the city some time this week to address concerns about the hotel’s proposed renovation and expansion.
Original plans would have increased the cumulative floor space of the property from 21,344 square feet to 36,500 square feet, with residential space accounting for 10,500 of that. City planners, as well as members of the public, have expressed concern about the size of two free-market residential duplexes in the proposal, which are 3,625 and 3,275 square feet, respectively.
Stan Clauson, who represents the applicant, said he hopes he can come away with a favorable staff recommendation from planners this week when he presents a new plan.
While Councilman Dwayne Romero has said he would approve the plan as is, Mayor Steve Skadron and Councilman Art Daily are not convinced that the expansion would work with the surrounding Bleeker Street neighborhood. Like Romero, council member Adam Frisch gave the applicant a favorable response. Councilwoman Ann Mullins has recused herself from the issue because she previously reviewed the application as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission.
“An appropriate balance needs to be met between incentivizing lodging development and preserving neighborhood mass and scale,” Skadron said on Jan. 13. “As proposed tonight, I find this application sufficiently incompatible with the surrounding (residential zoning) neighborhood.”
The proposal is expected to go before the council again on Feb. 24, and the applicant would need three votes for the project to move forward.
“We’re looking to get staff more comfortable with every aspect of the project,” Clauson said. “The scrutiny has focused on the residential component, but the residential component is absolutely essential to making the hotel renovation occur.”
One alternate plan is to replace the duplexes with a condominium building, but Clauson said that wouldn’t be in keeping with the neighborhood, either. Another alternative is for the property owners is to rebuild the lodge, eliminating the pool area next to Main Street and developing residential on Bleeker Street, without tying the two together. Clauson said that isn’t a good plan, either, because it would result in fewer lodge amenities.
On Wednesday, Frisch said that the key is to find middle ground between the community and developer, with a free-market component that fits the neighborhood but also allows the redevelopemnt to be feasible. He said the majority of people want to see mid-priced lodges, like the Hotel Aspen or the Molly Gibson, remain mid-priced.
“The fear is, for me, that in a generation, we’ll have three big hotels left, the St. Regis, the Jerome and the Nell,” Frisch said. “That’s my concern as a leader in a resort community.”