Aspen’s Lift One developers make case to realtors |

Aspen’s Lift One developers make case to realtors

ASPEN ” Developers John Sarpa and Bob Daniel educated the Aspen Board of Realtors on Wednesday on their Lift One Master Plan, which proposes nearly 300,000 square feet of commercial and residential space downtown.

The presentation before the group was scheduled prior to a decision handed down last week by the Aspen City Council, which voted to let city residents decide on the half-billion dollar redevelopment project at the base of Aspen Mountain.

The duo will be spending the next 111 days detailing their proposal to members of the public ” until their fate is decided by thousands of Aspen voters on May 12 during the municipal election.

In the May 2007 election, 2,200 Aspen voters showed up to the polls; during the presidential election this past fall, 3,700 cast their votes on a host of ballot questions, according to Sarpa.

The council on Jan. 14 deadlocked on a the land-use application, with a 2-2 vote. The council then voted 3-1 to let voters decide on Ordinance 34, which governs the master plan.

The council’s action befuddles Sarpa, especially since the master plan was created by a 27-member citizen task force, which met for six months.

Sarpa told the group of realtors that neither he, Daniel nor their development team thought the master plan would go to a public vote because of the level of involvement by the public ” a process that was set up by city officials.

“The whole prospect of citizen planning has been thrown into question,” he said. “[The council’s vote] leaves me speechless.”

The majority of task force members in October voted in favor of the project. Last spring, they were charged with creating a comprehensive development plan for Aspen Mountain’s western base area, at the top of South Aspen Street.

Sarpa and Daniel are working with city staff to clean up the ordinance’s language and make it presentable to voters. Then the hard campaigning will begin, Daniel said.

The “Lift One Neighborhood,” as it’s known, is where skiing began in Aspen. The area has been described by community members and developers as a dilapidated section of town. However, there is a group of critics who like the historic character of the neighborhood and think any redevelopment should mirror its current quaint, small-town feel.

The master plan includes two lodging properties, two new chairlifts, an underground parking garage with nearly 500 spaces, and a host of public amenities. Traffic engineers estimate that the development would generate 1,300 car trips a day.

The Lodge at Aspen Mountain is proposed by Centurion Partners and is represented by Sarpa. It includes a 175,000-square-foot hotel and ownership lodge on the west side of South Aspen Street, where the Mine Dump apartments used to be. There would be 101 rentals, five free-market condos and 5,000 square feet of commercial space.

Sarpa was denied in the fall of 2007 by a previous council to develop the hotel and ownership property. He has the option of building 14 townhomes, which he has approval for but has decided to kick his fate to the voters first.

“If we lose the election, we build townhomes and he [Daniel] has to start over,” Sarpa said.

The Lift One Lodge is proposed by developers David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light under the auspices of Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge-Aspen LLC and represented by Daniel. It would be 130,000 square feet and built below Lift 1A, in part where the Holland House once was. It includes 75 lodge units, 26 fractional condos, five free-market units and 18,000 square feet of commercial space, including an apres ski deck.

The task force required that developers pay for tens of millions of dollars worth of community benefits, which have partly driven the mass and scale of the project.

If voters approve the plan, Sarpa said he could break ground in 2010 or 2011, and it would take three years to build. Daniel said he would likely break ground at the same time as the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, but it would take less time to construct his properties.

Daniel asked realtors for a call to action of sorts, providing them with an e-mail address if they have additional questions or want to get involved in the effort.

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