Editorial: An anticlimactic ending for South Aspen Street
November 13, 2013
After a decade of disagreements, task-force meetings, discussions of a possible public vote and numerous City Council hearings and work sessions, the future is now clear for South Aspen Street near Aspen Mountain's Lift 1A: On Monday night, the City Council approved a project that will comprise 14 free-market townhomes and 17 affordable-housing units.
That's a far cry from the plans mulled over late last decade, when two firms had aimed to give the entire area a face-lift of grandiose proportions. At one point, Centurion Partners had proposed the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a 175,000-square-foot condominium hotel on South Aspen Street. Another firm, Roaring Fork Lodge Co., had proposed a 130,000-square-foot membership lodge called the Lift One Lodge, located across the street from the Lodge at Aspen Mountain.
Voters actually were supposed to decide on the joint proposal — called the Aspen Lift One Master Plan — in the May 2009 election. But the City Council, at the request of the developers, pulled the ballot question.
There were many wrinkles in this story between then and now, but the upshot is that the City Council's approval means the end of this seemingly endless tug-of-war.
So who's the winner in this one? Nobody, really, unless you're the developer.
While we believe the original hotel proposals were out of scale with Aspen's character, we are hardly fired up about free-market townhomes, which will be unoccupied most of the year, taking up one of Aspen most coveted areas, not to mention one rich with this town's skiing history.
Development, however, was inevitable, and perhaps Mayor Steve Skadron summed it up best Monday night when he explained his vote: "I'm being forced to approve it because it's the least worst project (available)."
That's hardly a ringing endorsement, but at least we can all agree this saga is officially over, along with any potential for a project the community could support wholeheartedly.