Aspen Institute eyes dining area expansion |

Aspen Institute eyes dining area expansion

The Aspen Institute recently unveiled plans to expand its dining area at the Aspen Meadows Reception Center by 100 seats to meet the demands of its lodge guests.

The think tank filed an application with the city’s Community Development Department last month.

It calls for doubling the seating capacity in the lower dining area and adding 1,816 square feet; 1,449 would be for the dining area, the remaining 367 for a glass connector that will separate the expanded dining area from the existing one.

The patio area, which would complement the new dining area, also would be expanded from 2,689 square feet to 3,012 under the proposal.

“The 100-seat expansion does not create any new demand but is proposed to more efficiently handle the lodge guests already staying in the 98 lodge rooms,” states the application, which notes the Aspen Meadows lodge, also part of the institute campus, has occupancy rates between 80 and 98 percent during the peak seasons, and “there is the need to provide food service for 120 to 200 people on site.”

Currently, the dining area is used primarily for breakfast and buffet-style lunch. It is separate from Plato’s Restaurant, a fine-dining establishment also located in the reception center. It opened in 2005.

A spike in traffic or parking is not anticipated with the expansion, the application states, explaining the enlargement is “proposed to provide more efficient food service and a better guest experience for the lodge guests already staying at the Aspen Meadows.”

The institute is exempt from the city’s growth-management quota system and affordable-housing mitigation because the City Council deemed it an “essential public facility” in 1991.

The reception center building, designed by Aspen visionaries Herbert Bayer and Fritz Benedict, opened in 1958. It is listed on the city’s inventory of historic structures.

The city has yet to do a staff review of the application, said Amy Simon of Historic Preservation. It is set to go before the Historic Preservation Commission on March 23.

The Aspen Institute plays host to a number of high-profile events and educational seminars each year, including the Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen Security Forum, Hurst Lecture Series, McCloskey Speaker Series and Aspen Words. Guests last year included Sen. John McCain, former President Jimmy Carter and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

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