A new look for Lift One Neighborhood?
September 5, 2008
ASPEN ” The group charged with designing a master plan for the Lift 1A side of Aspen Mountain is in the homestretch of agreeing on a vision, but the road ahead won’t be an easy one.
In the next few weeks, the Lift One Task Force must determine just how big two proposed hotels will need to be and who is going to pay for amenities like escalators and underground tunnels in the neighborhood.
The 27-member task force is scheduled to make a recommendation on Sept. 25 to the Aspen City Council ” the final decision-maker on a development program for the area.
But now that a new vision has surfaced ” which includes a ski path to Dean Street, an underground tunnel system for vehicular traffic and a possible escalator to take people to the base of a new Lift 1A ” the task force will likely need a few more weeks to finalize the messy details.
The costs associated with the plan haven’t been formalized yet but will be in the next couple of weeks, once the developers of the hotels determine how big their buildings need to be in order to get a return on their investments.
“Economics is going to be a big part of this,” said Tim Ditzler, the task force’s facilitator.
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Byron Koste, executive director of the real estate center in the Leeds Business School at the University of Colorado, will be analyzing the costs and presenting a pro forma at the Sept. 18 task force meeting. He is a noted expert in his field, which focuses on real estate development, particularly in ski resort towns.
It is presumed that the hotel developers will pay for redevelopment of the area, but if there is significant community benefit attached to the amenities, the city of Aspen might chip in. Its contribution could come in the form of either land donations, or agreeing to the creation of a metro taxing district that would be funded by fees tacked onto hotel rooms and parking.
The task force, which has been meeting weekly for six months, recently voted unanimously on a site plan designed by Stephen Holley of Poss Architecture and Planning and Dave Carpenter of DHM Design.
There would be three access zones into what’s known as the Lift One Neighborhood: A ski path, running from the bottom of Lift 1A through the historic Lift One area and Willoughby Park, would lead to Dean Street. That area, which includes the Skier’s Chalet and Steakhouse, would house a ski museum, as well as retail shops and restaurants.
To the west of that, a dedicated pedestrian walkway would lead up to the base of Lift 1A, which would be moved 200 feet farther uphill for better repeat skiing. At the top of the pathway just below the lift, a short escalator would run up through a corner of a proposed hotel to carry skiers to the base of the new lift.
Farther west and separated by a greenbelt or garden area would be a realigned 22-foot wide South Aspen Street for vehicle access to both hotels.
Service vehicles and truck traffic would enter the site via underground tunnels and garages, beginning at the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a proposed hotel where the Mine Dump Apartments used to be. It’s the first property that would be on South Aspen Street at the entry point of Dean Street.
Vehicles serving the Lift One Lodge farther uphill, located just below Lift 1A and where the Holland House used to sit, would enter through the Lodge at Aspen Mountain and connect to another garage under that hotel.
The entire area would be accessed by a dedicated arrival and drop-off zone at the intersection of Dean and South Aspen streets. Parking garages could be placed under South Aspen Street, Willoughby Park and both hotels.
As opposed to walking, one alternative to get people up the steep hill to the base of the lift would be some type of shuttle bus or “people-mover” that runs up and down South Aspen Street. That could include a trolley, an electric bus, cable car or other modes of transportation. The task force was scheduled to listen to options from a transportation consultant this past week on various modes.
Ditzler said the task force in the coming weeks will hash out three themes: the right height and mass of the hotels; an acceptable cost and return on investment for all parties involved; and the community benefits associated with the new development.
“It could be very cool up there,” Ditzler said of the evolving master plan.
The task force still has to decide how much affordable housing should be on-site.
Discussions thus far have centered around putting whatever housing is required behind the Lodge at Aspen Mountain in an enclave or neighborhood environment.
“Community benefit has grown in scope and cost,” Ditzler said. “There will now be a couple of conversations about trade-offs.”
The public has been able to participate in since it began in April, there wouldn’t be any coherent development in the area, task force members say.
John Sarpa, a partner in Centurion Partners, proposed to build the Lodge at Aspen Mountain but was shot down by the Aspen City Council last fall.
The land use application for Lift One Lodge, proposed by David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light, was pulled earlier this year by developer representative Bob Daniel in order to participate in the master plan process.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said the process has allowed the developers to hear what elected officials and the community want before a proposal goes into an official approval process.
“We’ve been able to eliminate some ideas before it pops up at the council table,” Ireland said, adding that as a task force member, he’s been careful not to speak much at the meetings so the city viewpoint doesn’t dominate the discussions. “I think it’s been an outstanding process, especially because we can test options.”
City Councilman Dwayne Romero, the other city representative on the task force, said the process has given way for more than just two development applications by hotel developers.
“I honestly thought we would have had a lot more conflict and right now, what we have is the makings of a real master plan product,” he said. “We are just now starting to see the fruits of our labor.”
City Councilman Steve Skadron is the only city elected official not on the task force that has attended a meeting.
“It’s helped me form my own opinion of the project,” he said, adding he’ll be more educated on the master plan when it comes time to vote on the task force’s recommendation.