Aspen Lift One redevelopment reaches new heights
ASPEN ” If approved as proposed, there will be nearly 300,000 square feet of new commercial and residential development at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side.
Developers behind the Lift One Master Plan on Monday proposed to the Aspen City Council 295,170 square feet of new development, which includes two hotels, affordable housing, ski amenities, a museum, and retail and restaurant space on both sides of South Aspen Street, which would be snowmelted from top to bottom.
It’s a proposal led by the four main property owners in the 8-acre site ” the city of Aspen, the Aspen Skiing Co., and the developers of two proposed hotels ” Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge-Aspen LLC and Centurion Partners.
The Lodge at Aspen Mountain, proposed by Centurion Partners, is proposed at 167,849 square feet, as opposed to the 175,000 square feet originally brought forward last fall when the council rejected the application. It would be 59 feet tall at its highest point, however that takes into account the steep slope of the area.
Affordable housing on Dean Street for Lodge at Aspen Mountain employees is proposed at 5,653 square feet.
There would be 75 lodge units, 26 fractional-ownership units, five free-market residential units, a maximum of 18,000 square feet of commercial space and a minimum of 238 underground parking spaces at the hotel.
Across the street and slightly farther up the hill would be the Lift One Lodge, proposed by developers David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light. It’s proposed at 113,036 square feet and would be 52 feet tall at its highest point.
It is a mixed-use membership lodge and whole-ownership project consisting of 35 lodge units, five free-market residential units, a maximum of 9,000 square feet of commercial space and 250 underground parking spaces.
The commercial space would include a public restaurant and bar, and facilities for the Aspen Skiing Co. including ticket sales, equipment rental, storage lockers, among other skier servicing facilities.
The defunct Skiers Chalet Steak House building, also owned by the same partnership, would be 3,998 square feet. That would include commercial space on the ground floor and five dormitory affordable housing rooms on its second and third floors.
The Skier Chalet Lodge building would be relocated to Willoughby Park, where it could be used for a historical museum, affordable housing or affordable commercial space. That building is proposed at 4,104 square feet.
Ticket offices and accessory buildings on the site total 530 square feet.
Stephen Holley, principal with Poss Architecture and Planning, said the site plan is designed so the buildings’ size and mass appear reduced as they go up the steep slope along South Aspen Street. From the lower portion of the street, where pedestrians will be in front of the buildings, the height and mass are reduced.
Holley provided examples of other buildings in town where their height is much taller than the 42-foot limit, such as the Hotel Jerome, which stands 56 feet tall from Mill Street, and the St. Regis, which is 67 feet tall at the diagonal entry point and is as high as 72 feet in the back.
He also noted that 40 percent of the buildings in the site plan are less than 42 feet and 75 percent are lower than 48 feet in height. All of the proposed development is under 60 feet and 85 percent is under 55 feet tall, Holley said.
The master plan is an attempt to overhaul the historic Lift One neighborhood at the base of Aspen Mountain, giving rebirth to the resort’s skiing history and reinvigorating a rundown section of town, according to a task force comprised of 27 people who met weekly from April to September to create the master plan.
But City Councilman Steve Skadron is skeptical about that representation, saying a collection of small lodges along South Aspen Street is more appropriate in maintaining the historical character of the neighborhood, not large, expensive hotels.
Skadron also said the master plan’s purpose of bringing vitality to the area really means bringing more people there, which is the purest form of growth there is.
“Vitality is an easy term to throw around in order to get somewhere,” he said.
Mayor Mick Ireland said he would like to see details on the developers’ plan for maximizing energy use on site, but more importantly, he doesn’t want the overall development to be a burden on the community. It will be if the hotels employ more people than they house, he said.
Developers are proposing to provide housing for 75 percent of their employees. The Lift One Lodge would generate the equivalent of 53.5 employees, and the developers have committed to house 40 of them. The Lodge at Aspen Mountain plans to generate 166 employees, of which it has committed to housing 125 people.
“I have difficulty creating anything that bears a housing burden,” Ireland said. “It’s a core issue for me.”
The Lift One Master Plan serves as a land-use application for the entire site. It was passed in September by the task force made up of developers, city officials and residents charged with creating a new development scheme for the area.
Whether the plan is approved or not, Ireland, who served on the task force, said it’s better than what has been proposed in the past, including Centurion’s already-approved 17 townhomes that could be built if the Lodge at Aspen Mountain is denied.
“The townhomes are dead space,” he said. “Beautiful empty buildings devoted to people who aren’t here.”
Despite that it could be the largest development Aspen has seen in decades, there has been minimal opposition from the public, with only a handful of people on Monday speaking against it. They argued it was too large, too much development and inappropriate for the sleepy side of town.
Others, mainly task force members, spoke in favor of the project, saying the master plan and the process was full of compromises by the developers who have conceded to paying for numerous community benefits.
Task force member Mary Janss said she remembers skiing that side of the mountain as a child and is saddened to see it neglected. In response to critics who say the development will ruin the flavor of Aspen, Janss said residents have to stop living in the past and think about future generations.
“I would love to have the old days but they’re gone,” she said.
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