Task force: Lift 1A design costs too much
September 25, 2008
ASPEN ” The Lift One Task Force heard some bad news Thursday: their design costs too much ” somewhere between 25 and 35 percent too much, according to Byron Koste of the Leeds Business School.
The cost of the proposal for two lodges and numerous public amenities ” six months in the making ” will exceed the financing the developers could reasonably expect to receive, explained John Sarpa, of Centurion, developers of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain.
Koste said that until Tuesday, he’d thought the project was on-budget. But when a contractor weighed in on building costs, he was surprised. Koste was still in the process of reconciling his numbers with the contractor’s, he said, so he declined to give an exact overage amount.
“Honest to goodness, when I know the number, I’ll tell you,” he said, after numerous requests from task force members.
Koste began by explaining to the group that he needed to know if they had any sacred cows that couldn’t be eliminated.
Mayor Mick Ireland was the only one who explicitly gave one: affordable housing.
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“We are in a lot of stress in the housing area,” he said “I’m not saying 100%, but we have to do a lot.”
Koste then asked for permission to examine several cost-cutting measures: reducing underground public parking, moving some affordable housing off-site, and reducing or eliminating some planning and building fees.
“The only way you can continue to get the list of goodies,” he told the group, “is to allow some manipulation.”
The co-op approved an examination all those suggestions, and two others, as proposed by the developers: selling a few of the units in the two lodges to raise capital early and increasing the size of the buildings with some creative design.
Koste led his presentation by reminding the co-op of the numerous public benefits they would be receiving from this project.
“I have never seen a public component as strong as this. I don’t know that it could be done anywhere else,” he said.
Then he gave numbers for those improvements: $2.5 million for the ski museum, $56 million to put the parking underground instead of above-ground (each parking space costs approximately $75,000, noted Sarpa), $500,000 for public lockers ” and $32.2 million for affordable housing.
“But what took my breath away most,” Koste said, were the soft costs and financing costs and fees.
“I have never seen a fee category like this. You have won the award,” he told the Aspenites.
Building permit fees alone will cost the two developers $9.5 million, he noted. A right-of-way fee will cost them $4 million. And in total, the two developers will be expected to pay just over $28 million in public fees alone for the project.
Chris Bendon, director of community development for the city of Aspen, said the numbers surprised even him.
“I mean I was shocked when I heard these numbers,” he said.
Bendon noted that all the building and planning fees collected for all the projects done in Aspen in the last three years amount to only $9 million. So he didn’t think it would cost the department $9.5 million to administer this one project, even as large as it is.
“The next place I’d probably go are those right-of-way fees,” he said.
Ireland also noted that the city might be able to reduce or eliminate parks fees, since the developers are contributing green space in-lieu. And he suggested that a special improvement district or the museum district could provide funding for the ski museum.
On the issue of housing, the developers noted that property in the Lift 1A area is very expensive, so they could cut costs by putting their affordable housing elsewhere.
Centurion, for example, has the adjacent Smuggler Racquet Club under contract as a site on which to build affordable housing.
“It’s a ridiculously expensive piece of ground,” Sarpa said. “If we can avoid Smugger, that’s a good move for us.”
But Sarpa assured task force members that the developers would still keep as much of their housing on-site as they could.
But after Bob Daniel, representing the developers of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, suggested increasing the massing of the buildings, several co-op members noted that they wouldn’t be opposed to increasing building size if doing so kept the affordable housing in the neighborhood.
The discussion about the budget shortfall came on the heels of a presentation of the buildings’ massing and height by Stephen Holley of Poss Architecture and Planning. In that conversation, several task force members reacted to the size of the lodges, both of which will be split into three buildings each.
“Oh my god, I mean it is huge,” said Allyn Harvey.
But Bendon pointed out that no one would ever see the entire building at once.
“There’s no view in the world” that would allow one to do that, concurred Daniel.
The next ” and last ” Lift 1A Co-op meeting will be held at the Hines Room at Aspen Meadows from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The group once planned to present their plan to Aspen City Council by Sept. 25, but now expects to go before council at the end of October.