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Aspen council to discuss Little Annie’s, Benton buildings

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council Monday will begin discussions with a local developer on the preservation of the Little Annie’s and Benton buildings on East Hyman Avenue, as well as plans for a new three-story mixed-use building on a nearby corner lot.

In recent weeks, two council members, Torre and Adam Frisch, have met with developer Nikos Hecht, managing partner of Aspen Core Ventures LLC, to negotiate concessions Hecht was seeking in exchange for preserving the two buildings. However, discussions that begin at Monday’s special meeting of the full council and Mayor Mick Ireland – called solely for the purpose of introducing the ordinance that would cement the developer’s plans – ultimately will decide the fate of the two buildings and plans for the third structure.

Some in the community believe the buildings have historic value, citing Little Annie’s longtime presence as a local eatery and the Benton Building’s connection to architect-artist Thomas W. Benton, who built the 519 E. Hyman Ave. structure in 1963 and lived and worked there for several years. Benton died in 2007 at the age of 76, having sold the building decades before his death.

The negotiations are being conducted through the city’s new AspenModern program, which seeks to protect local landmark properties by providing concessions to developers in other areas.

A memorandum to the council from Sara Adams, senior planner for the city of Aspen, and Amy Guthrie, historic preservation officer, states that Monday’s gathering seeks to “update council on the negotiation topics, get direction on the project and to potentially conduct a first reading of the proposed ordinance.” A second reading, and public hearing, is planned for Feb. 13.

Hecht initially sought a waiver of affordable-housing mitigation requirements for 29.3 full-time employees. Under a new proposal, the number of jobs to be generated by the development has been recalculated to nine.

The developer has agreed to provide one off-site residential unit to cover 1.75 full-time employees generated by the development and to pay a little more than $1 million as “cash in lieu” of providing more housing options for the equivalent of another 7.25 full-time employees generated by the project.

He also had planned a single, 7,500-square-foot, free-market penthouse for the top of the new building. That proposal has changed, and now he’s seeking two units that would total 8,950 square feet of floor area, one at 6,950 and the other at 2,000 square feet.

“Staff finds that the methodology used to calculate the affordable-housing mitigation is appropriate considering that there are two historic landmarks on the site,” the memo to council states. “The ability to receive a (credit) for not demolishing the two buildings and restoring the Benton Building is a policy discussion for City Council.”


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