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A Main Street for Snowmass?

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Related WestPac, developer of the $1 billion Base Village in Snowmass Village, has a new draft plan to demolish and rebuild the 30-year-old Snowmass Center, current home of the town’s grocery store and post office.

And unlike an unpopular plan it proposed 18 months ago, this one keeps the gas station.

Related representatives argue that the buildings are obsolete, fundamentally flawed and reflect poorly on the village character. The ceilings are low, the halls are narrow, the buildings constantly need to be patched, parking is sparse, and auto circulation is confusing, the developer says.

The new plan has a Main Street design ” an open pedestrian mall with retail and offices lining the street. It promises that all commercial space will be “community-serving,” and the design proposes such amenities as a village green, a gondola to Base Village, green roofs, underground parking, approximately 20,000 square feet of housing, and a guarantee that Snowmass Village would keep its gas station.

After presenting the plan at Monday night’s Snowmass Village Town Council meeting, Related WestPac President Pat Smith asked that discussion be continued until January. He noted that the council will have at least one new member after the election. Smith also said that it might be useful to spend a few months watching the unsteady financial markets before going forward.

Arguing that it needs to build more residential space in order to pay for the amenities, Related is continuing to propose a heavy housing component for the Snowmass Center.

Related WestPac’s Scott Stenman argued that since community-serving businesses can only pay so much in rent, renovating the mall only works if the developer can also build and sell residences.

According to the application, the number of housing units at the site would be increased to 158 units, up from 51 units in the previously approved plan, and from 154,000 square feet to 314,000 square feet.

Unlike previous iterations, however, the housing might have “a touch” of fractional units, though most would be wholly owned, Smith said. The developer would rather move its fractional housing to Base Village, where most of its highly desirable ski-in, ski-out real estate is.

In order to keep the gas station at the center, the new plan suggests moving the gas station to the current Alpine Bank property and moving Alpine Bank up to the center.

Related argues that the current location of the gas station is not ideal, particularly because it will lose an entrance if a proposed roundabout is built nearby. Citing the likely difficulty of finding someone to rebuild and operate the gas station (in 2006, the town was unable to find someone interested in the project), the developer says a gas station would have to be heavily subsidized and will thus be a community benefit. Related also pointed out that among the nearly 47,000 feet of community-serving space in the Snowmass Center would be such community amenities as a grocery store and post office (both double their current size), a coffee shop, a liquor store, medical offices, a drugstore and a spa. The company intends to relocate current tenants during the renovation and keep rents in the new building reasonable, said Stenman. However, he acknowledged that the company hadn’t yet set the new rents.

Council members John Wilkinson and Sally Sparhawk said Monday they would like to see a plan for the relocations.

Council members accepted Smith’s continuation request, but Sparhawk, the only council member who is retiring, took the opportunity to scold the developer while she was still on council. She focused her criticism on the proposed service station, noting that the bays are too small, the parking spaces too few, and the number of pumps (three) too few to allow for alternative fuels in the future. Calling the newest proposal “a slap in the face” after the months of discussion about the town’s gas station needs, Sparhawk suggested to her fellow council members that they go through the proposal with a fine-toothed comb come January.

“There has just been such a violation of trust,” she said.

Several other council members strongly suggested that when the developer returns in January, it produce a completed application, pointing to gaps in the current one, even after several continuances.

“I think you’ve reached the end of your rope,” said Councilman Arnie Mordkin.

The current proposal has a long road ahead before any razing or building will happen. Stenman predicted “at least 20 more meetings” ” and that is if council agrees to review the current plan.

kredding@aspentimes.com


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