Aspen Times Weekly: Mill Street, redefined
August 19, 2016
For years, Aspen has been defined by its neighborhoods: Red Mountain, the West End, Starwood, Mountain Valley, the downtown core, Hunter Creek and more. Like a jigsaw puzzle that pieces together the town's storied history, these areas seemingly tell the tale of our resort town. But beyond the Victorian homes, McMansions, employee-housing enclaves and the like stand pockets of development that speak to the new Aspen. A place where businesses, visitors, homeowners (both local worker bees and part-timers), and others can co-exist in buildings that have an eye to the future but respect the town's history. The Mill is a prime example of this new way of thinking; it is, in a nutshell, Aspen redefined.
When Michael Rudin set out to redefine the once non-descript corner behind the majestic Hotel Jerome, he knew he had his work cut out for him. But this forward-thinking developer also knew he had the team, the talent and the tenacity to succeed.
"A little background … I developed the Spring Building and I was very happy with how that project turned out," says Rudin of the mixed-use hub on Aspen's eastern edge. "So when the Jerome Professional Building became available, I assembled the same team to create something along the same lines — something that fit within the context of Aspen, incorporating the town's history with a contemporary, modern feel."
Collaborating with locally based David Johnston Architects, Connect One Design, TRU Real Estate, Method Planning & Development and Falcone Construction Management, among others, Rudin set out to create a development that met myriad needs. The end result? One building that houses four free-market pied-a-terre apartments, four employee-housing units, 10,000 square feet of commercial space, underground parking and storage.
"The people that work there and visit those businesses, and the people that live in the building — whether it be a full-time affordable-housing resident or a part-time penthouse owner — will find that this building functions seamlessly. And that was our goal," says Brian Beazley, of David Johnston Architects. "Every aspect of this project was well thought out, with the idea of creating something above and beyond your standard Aspen development."
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Perhaps the crown jewel of The Mill are two penthouses, each of which feature three bedrooms and three bathrooms spread over 2,000 square feet and include outdoor living areas totaling 1,300 square feet. In addition, an owner amenity package through the Hotel Jerome includes such luxuries as concierge, grocery and housekeeping services, ski concierge, transportation and access to the Hotel Jerome pool and gym, spa access, as well as in-room dining service and other benefits.
But these upscale residences do not define The Mill. In fact, they are simply icing on the cake of this unique project, according to the team that made it a reality.
"What I look for when I develop a property is something that is sustainable; something that stands out from the ordinary and can transform an area," says Rudin, whose roots lie in New York City real estate and development. "I think The Mill is just this kind of project."
Located a block north of what many consider to be Aspen's downtown core, The Mill is actually ground zero for a burgeoning part of the Aspen scene. With the Hotel Jerome just across the street, and flanked by the charming West End neighborhood, Rio Grande Park and newly renovated Pitkin County Library, this part of the Mill Street corridor is no longer "the other side of the tracks." In fact, some see it as the future of Aspen.
"It is just one step off of the true downtown core, if the edge of town is Main Street and North Mill Street is a different 'neighborhood,'" says Beazley. "So we see The Mill as becoming a cornerstone of this neighborhood."
Rudin agrees: "Today, this area is not what you would consider a downtown hub; an area with foot traffic. But I think, over time, it will become just that — and more.
"This corridor has all the elements you need for long-term viability, so I am confident it was the right time and the right place to develop a building like The Mill."
Gyles Thornley, whose Connect One Design was charged with the building's landscape design aspects, points out subtle — and not-so-subtle — changes already taking place near The Mill.
"That corner, with the old building, was really a barrier; a place you walked straight past," he says. "Now, look at the graded benches, the set-back building, the landscaping … these are engaging components; they invite you to interact with your surroundings. It's an exemplary building for those who work and live there, and for people just walking by, to experience."
Indeed, The Mill building itself speaks to redefining Aspen developments as it carefully blends Aspen's notable history with its promising future. According to the development team, "it offers a nod to the Victorian era, with the south and east-facing facades complementing the adjacent Hotel Jerome in brickwork and sandstone with contemporary detailing, while the north and west façades of the building reflect a more contemporary style, with floor-to-ceiling windows and retractable glass doors at the penthouse level."
And then there are the sustainable technologies employed in The Mill's construction. According to Rudin, sustainability has become a primary focus of Rudin West Development projects. For example, The Mill is home to a 3,100-square-foot green roof, the largest in Aspen, comprised of native shrubs and plants. In addition to a more natural surrounding and privacy, the green roof simultaneously harvests rainwater while also creating a natural transition between outdoor living spaces and the roof
"With some developers you have to twist their arm to see the benefits of these technologies," says Thornley, who also created Spring Building's green roof among others in town. "But with this team, it's an unspoken truth that doing this type of work is the only way to go … it's environmentally correct, sustainable and beneficial to all — not to mention it's aesthetically pleasing."
All of these pieces of the puzzle — the team, the vision, the building — point to a well-designed future for The Mill and other projects in the pipeline.
"The team that's been created here has really great chemistry," says Beazley. "The developer has a vision and a mindset that we all embrace.
It's not just a cash-grab. This is something that really makes sense and will be here for the long-term; it's really ingrained in what the community wants and needs."
"You look back, and like any project there were struggles. But this is a building we can be proud of; that Aspen can be proud of."
And this, says Rudin, is the foundation of his development philosophy.
"Obviously you can't always choose exactly where to create a development, but when you find a special place and take the time to consider what should be there — what will thrive there, now and in the future — you can make a dream become a reality.
"In the Spring Building and now The Mill, I think we've done this. I think, over time, these will become a the standard for development in Aspen."
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