New hotel finally wins nod | AspenTimes.com

New hotel finally wins nod

Janet Urquhart

Plans for the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, finally whittled down to a size the City Council could digest, won hard-fought conceptual approval on Monday.The council endorsed the project, 4-0, though Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss maintained the hotel is still too big. His colleagues expressed hope that the design can be further tweaked before the project returns for final review.The latest iteration of the hotel plan was cut by another 9,000 square feet and about two feet in height from the already scaled-back design the council reviewed in October.”I still think you can do better. I’d like to see you do better at final,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards. “I’m willing to support this tonight to see it go forward.””I still think you have a lot of work to do going toward final,” agreed Councilman Torre.The hotel, as it’s now designed, contains about 175,000 square feet of floor area, including a mix of 80 hotel rooms and one-bedroom suites, 21 suites to be sold in fractional shares, 16 employee units and four free-market condos. It is slated for about 2.3 acres off South Aspen Street near the base of Aspen Mountain.Though developers have trimmed back the project – twice removing entire floors in sections of the building – council members downplayed some of the changes. Eliminating a cupola that measured 72 feet to the midpoint of the roof and ultimately reducing the building’s high point to 47 feet as measured at the midpoint of a roof isn’t terribly meaningful, DeVilbiss argued.”If you ever thought you were going to get 72 feet approved, well, you know, I wasn’t going to drink that Kool-Aid,” he said.The hotel plan is finally at a scale that should have been proposed initially, Richards added.But several audience members praised the project.David Perry, Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president, suggested the hotel will help further Aspen’s current “business momentum.” It will revitalize a neighborhood that may appear neglected to the international visitors who will soon make their way to the area for next month’s World Cup races on Aspen Mountain, he noted.”I do believe this project improves with each iteration,” Perry said.But Jeff Gauvin, manager of the small Snow Queen Lodge, suggested the large, corporately run hotels coming to Aspen are stealing the resort’s identity.”A lot of the smaller lodges in town would disagree with the need for another large, corporate property,” he said.Council members, however, unanimously agreed the property along South Aspen Street, split by Juan Street, is appropriate for a hotel.”Clearly, this is the spot for lodging and to invigorate this part of the mountain,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.The developers have proposed replacing Lift 1A on the Shadow Mountain side of the ski area as part of their project and have approached developers who are planning redevelopment of lodges across South Aspen Street about forming a metropolitan district. The district would help the property owners collectively fund needed improvements to the street, which is steep and treacherous during the winter months.In addition, the latest plan for the hotel includes an extra level of underground parking – 50 spaces that developers would like to sell or lease to offset revenues to be lost with reductions to the hotel, said project spokesman John Sarpa. The latest plans eliminate one of the fractional units that had been proposed and increase the on-site employee housing. Another housing site has also been secured at the base of Smuggler Mountain.In all, the development is proposing about 55,000 square feet of employee housing, Klanderud noted. “That’s amazing,” she said.Councilman Jack Johnson recused himself from the council’s review of the project because he lives at the Mine Dump Apartments, which would be razed to make way for the new hotel. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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