Aspen Lift One plan ready for council
ASPEN ” After 26 meetings and hundreds of hours of analysis, a group of residents have signed off on a master plan that will forever change the historic Lift One neighborhood at the base of Aspen Mountain.
The Lift One Task Force on Thursday overwhelmingly voted in favor of recommending a master plan to the Aspen City Council for approval. The master plan will serve as a land-use application for hundreds of thousands of square feet in commercial and residential space, including two large hotels, retail shops, restaurants, affordable housing, a ski museum and public spaces. The City Council has the final say on the application.
While the master plan has many details that still need to be hashed out, like the exact sizes of two proposed hotels, how much affordable housing will be required and how much of the costs of public amenities should be borne by developers, the task force in theory has agreed on the vision.
The task force has been meeting since April and recently agreed on a site plan for the 8-acre area. It includes three access zones: 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 defunct Skier’s Chalet and Steakhouse, would most likely house a ski museum, as well as retail shops, restaurants and affordable housing.
To the west of that, a dedicated pedestrian walkway would lead up to the base of Lift 1A, which would be moved 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 snowmelted South Aspen Street for vehicle access to both hotels. Gilbert Street would become two-way and delivery vehicles would access the area underneath that route.
A POMA chairlift would start where the existing terminal of the historic Lift One chair is located in Willoughby Park, and take riders slightly above and left of a new, high-speed quad Lift 1A set 150 feet farther uphill.
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 would be placed under South Aspen Street, Willoughby Park and both hotels.
Thursday’s meeting, which lasted seven hours, focused on heights and massing of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, proposed by Centurion Partners and the Lift One Lodge, proposed by David Wilhelm, Jim Light and Jim Chaffin.
The economic proforma of the entire development barely pencils out for the developers, who are expected to pay for many of the community benefits that are attached to the master plan, said Byron Koste, executive director of the real estate center in the Leeds Business School at the University of Colorado.
And because the costs are so high, how much affordable housing the developers are able to provide remains a question and will be hashed out during the approval process in front of the City Council.
The task force spent a considerable amount of time determining whether it should hold developers to house a certain percentage of their hotel workforce. The majority of the task force agreed that developers should house between 70 and 80 percent of the workers generated by the new hotels both on site and off site. City regulations mandate 60 percent.
“We need to find a way to do better than that,” said John Sarpa, a partner with Centurion. “It’s not 60 percent, it’s not 100 percent but it’s somewhere in between.”
But because the developers are currently negotiating with the city government to be a partner in Burlingame Ranch, how many units they buy there for hotel employees and what the cost of them are is dependent upon how much they can ultimately house.
“I would love to do nothing but commit and if we had a number we could commit,” said Bob Daniel, who represents the planned Lift One Lodge. “We have to work something out with the city on an equitable number.”
City Councilman and task force member Dwayne Romero suggested that the millions of dollars in development fees levied by the city on the developers could be dedicated to building more affordable housing instead of funding individual government departments.
Building permit fees alone will cost the two developers $9.5 million, Koste determined. A right-of-way fee will cost them $4 million. And in total, the two developers will be expected to pay just over $28 million in public fees alone for the project, according to Koste.
Parking underground is estimated to cost $56 million, $500,000 for public lockers and $32.2 million for affordable housing also are part of Koste’s estimation.
If more affordable housing is required of the developers, trade-offs on community benefits will have to occur, the task force recognized. Both Sarpa and Daniel said they don’t want to add to their hotels to make more money to pay for public amenities.
“We do not need or want more to sell,” Sarpa said.
The hotels’ square footage hasn’t been decided yet and the details of the height are still preliminary. Because the hotels would be built along a steep grade, their heights vary from as tall as 59 feet to as low as 30 feet. City regulations mandate a height limit of 42 feet tall so variances will be requested.
Lift One Lodge is anticipated to be a membership ownership property with between 32 and 38 units, varying in sizes and bedrooms. Between three and five whole ownership residential units also are part of the proposal.
Commercial facilities for skiing like ticket sales, equipment rental, storage lockers, public restaurants with and apres ski deck also would be part of the lodge.
The Lodge at Aspen Mountain is anticipated to include hotel, fractional and free-market residential uses. There would be approximately 75 hotel rooms, 26 fractional units and five whole ownership units. Meeting space, fitness, dining, a public restaurant and other guest services are part of the proposal.
For a myriad of reasons, there are neighbors and community members against the master plan who spoke at Thursday’s meeting. Some said the task force will have a challenge in getting buy-in from the community at large.
There are others who favor the master plan and said the redevelop is now cohesively and appropriately planned.
“I think this process is amazing,” said Bruce Dierking, a resident of the neighborhood. “This project is so much better than it was.”
The task force will meet one final time on Oct. 23 to formalize its recommendation to the City Council, which may begin public hearings on the land-use application this fall.
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