Aspen to Lift One developer: You’re on the right track
August 12, 2009
ASPEN – Developers of a proposed lodge at the base of Lift 1A got a certain level of confidence from the Aspen City Council Tuesday that bigger buildings and encroaching on a public street are acceptable trade-offs to accommodate their plan to build a town lift to Dean Street, as well as provide other community benefits.
Bob Daniel, who represents developers David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light, went before council members to gauge their comfort level on certain aspects of the proposal before proceeding with a site plan for the Lift One Lodge, a 114,000-square-foot membership property on the eastern side of South Aspen Street.
In addition to paying for a new high-speed 1A chairlift that would be 240 feet farther uphill from the current terminal, and installing a 700-foot-long platter lift at Dean Street for skier access, Lift One Lodge also plans to incorporate more than a dozen public amenities, including an affordable locals’ pub, lockers, a historic skiing museum and pedestrian improvements to South Aspen Street.
But with that comes trade-offs, like having to push South Aspen Street farther west to accommodate a ski corridor for the platter lift; relocate the Skiers Chalet Lodge to Willoughby Park and the historic steakhouse into the public right of way, and increase the square footage of the Lift One Lodge.
Mayor Mick Ireland said it will be up to the community to decide whether the project is too opulent in terms of size and cost. He added that Aspen as a resort may not be able to sustain its current luxury lifestyle spending in future generations. Ireland also suggested that some of the 97 lodge rooms be smaller so they are more affordable for the “entry level” guest.
“I’m not saying you need one-story cottages, but the race to the heavens we’ve seen in the past may become obsolete,” Ireland said of previous hotel and condo developments regarded as too big and expensive.
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“A lot of this depends on how the community perceives height and mass … people are just beside themselves with height and mass,” Ireland added, referencing large developments in Vail that block views of the mountain.
Moving South Aspen Street to the west and possibly curving it concerns both Ireland and Councilman Torre, who said they want people to be able to see the mountain from town.
Councilman Dwayne Romero said not withstanding the right-of-way intrusion, he supports the direction Daniel is headed.
“I definitely can and will continue to support the formula you are proposing for trade-offs,” he said. “The balance is in the right frame and ballpark …”
Romero and Ireland said they are concerned developers’ financial proforma won’t be able to sustain paying for the other public amenities, and suggested a special improvement district or another funding mechanism be in place to assure they come to fruition over the life of the project.
Last year, the Lift One Lodge was a co-applicant in a six-month-long master planning process for South Aspen Street that was created by a 26-member citizen task force. The task force recommended to council a development area that included a host of public amenities that were attached to the Lift One Lodge, as well Centurion Partners’ Lodge at Aspen Mountain across the street.
The master plan was ultimately withdrawn because of a lack of support by the council, and the COWOP (convenience and welfare of the public) task force was disbanded.
Daniel opted out of a new attempt to create another task force to help design the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a 160,000-square-foot hotel and residence proposed on the west side of South Aspen Street. Led by John Sarpa, the project also was a key element in the failed master plan.
So the Lift One Lodge is back on its own, which it had been until early 2008, when developers decided to be a part of the master plan process and folded their project in with Sarpa’s.
Next month, Daniel will present to council the original conceptual plan, which was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2007.
Meanwhile, a new COWOP task force convenes today to tackle over the next several months the mass and scale of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain.
Lift One Lodge is proposed to be a multistory structure consisting of 32 timeshare lodging units divided into one-eighth interests with 256 member interests. Those lodge suites would contain 97 keys of separately rentable rooms, which would be made available to the general public when not used by members.
The lodge would be built where the Holland House once sat at the base of Lift 1A and the old Skiers Chalet Lodge.
The Skiers Chalet Steakhouse would be renovated and converted into six one-bedroom employee housing units. Three one-bedroom and two, two-bedroom units would be included in the lodge building. The 11 units will house more than 20 workers.
Also proposed in the application is a subgrade parking garage with 216 spaces, part of which would be underneath Willoughby Park.