Analysis compares Basalt hotel project with committee’s advice
A development proposal at the center of debate in Basalt is getting high marks for meeting many of the physical layout recommendations made by an advisory committee, but docked for missing, so far, on character issues.
Paul Andersen, moderator of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee, compared the proposal for a hotel and condominiums made by Lowe Enterprises with the recommendations previously submitted by the committee. The committee was appointed by the Basalt Town Council to study how best to use part of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site and other key parcels downtown. Its full recommendation is available at http://www.ourtownplanning.org.
Lowe Enterprises submitted its informal plan March 10 for a 60-room boutique hotel and 12 affiliated luxury condominiums as well as 40 condos aimed at year-round residents. Lowe Enterprises President Jim DeFrancia said his firm took its cue from the Downtown Area Advisory Committee recommendations.
Andersen, who also is a columnist for The Aspen Times, said Thursday that he took it upon himself to prepare the analysis. The committee didn’t review Andersen’s report, but it was released last week to the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission.
Andersen said the Lowe concept “achieves many” of the committee’s recommendations. There are connections to a park on the Roaring Fork River that is being built by the town of Basalt. View planes are preserved from Midland Avenue to the park. The design of Cottle Carr Yaw Architects creates a “livable street” at the center of the property, where cars are subordinate to pedestrians and bicycles.
The Lowe plan also drew accolades from Andersen for creating amenities in Basalt such as an amphitheater and commercial-public open spaces in and around the hotel.
But the proposal fails to think outside the box and be daring with design, as urged in the town planning process, Andersen said. The advisory committee’s top goals were preserving rural, small-town values; accommodating economic development and social vibrancy; and keeping Basalt small, intimate and vital.
The Lowe plan “is a conservative commercial development that pushes no new boundaries at the conceptual phase,” Andersen wrote in his report. “It is comprised basically of blocks of residences with a hotel next door. There are no specific provisions for small-town character or ‘characters,’ nor is there a component for community vitality as it relates to social diversity.”
The Downtown Area Advisory Committee urged “appropriate density” to help drive revitalization but cautioned against overpowering Basalt’s rural character and charm, Andersen said. The committee advised including affordable housing in the plan to ensure that young families and eclectic characters be included in the social mix. The Lowe plan falls short of the goal because it doesn’t include any affordable housing, Andersen said.
In other ways, the project matches the committee’s advice on revitalization. It helps address municipal parking issues in a visually pleasing way, Andersen wrote. It creates social mixing opportunities with a coffee house and a brewery. It brings development that would encourage multiseason uses and activities. It creates festival amenities and outdoor market space.
The project attempts to preserve as much green space as possible by building up rather than sprawling out, Andersen’s report said. Lowe Enterprises is proposing a fourth story on the hotel, though the highest floor would be set back to avoid an overwhelming mass. Lowe said 58 percent of the developable land would be open space. Andersen said the real question is how much of the green space is usable by the public.
Overall, Andersen gave Lowe Enterprises credit for taking the broad-brush strokes of the Downtown Area Advisory Committee’s recommendations and applying them to a three-dimensional concept. He also said it must still address two of the committee’s core values: don’t lose Basalt’s small-town charm and promote physical and economic vitality and sustainability.
Lowe Enterprises has indicated it will submit a formal land-use application within the next couple of weeks. A town meeting is scheduled for April 14 at the Basalt Regional Library.
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