Bavarian Inn plan receives strong support from neighbors
In stark contrast to the firestorm of controversy surrounding the approval of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the 1980s, Savanah Limited Partnership could not have choreographed a more supportive introduction for its latest round of development proposals.
On Monday night the Aspen City Council got its first look at Savanah’s most recent plans to develop three projects under two separate applications.
In one application Savanah proposes to redevelop the Bavarian Inn as 19 affordable housing units. The other application is for a hotel to replace the Grand Aspen, and 17 residential units split between townhouses and single-family homes at the top of Mill Street.
But the distinctive feature of the meeting was the fan club Savanah has amassed in the past year among the neighbors of the Bavarian Inn.
Making quite an impression with council members, West End residents showed up in force to attest to the “extraordinary consideration” showed by Savanah in addressing their concerns.
“I’m here to tell you the process is alive and well,” said neighbor Bonnie Murry to the council.
“You’re not going to have people screaming at you tonight,” said Herb Klein, whose house faces the proposed development on two sides. “It’s been pretty remarkable. I think with any other project, it could have easily turned into a war zone, but I’m here to say we welcome this project.”
Other comments by potential neighbors fell into variations of “This is dynamite” and “It really meets the feeling of the entire neighborhood.”
A lot of different factors came into play, said John Sarpa, representing Savanah. The most significant, however, could be that the developer spent about a year not only listening but responding to neighbors’ concerns.
Some examples of the “give and take” were a reduction in density from 31 to 19 units, lowering the building heights, adding open space, and changing gabled roof designs to flat in order to save existing view planes.
But Sarpa considers “the modifications made at the request of neighbors” as changes gladly made to create a design that would be more compatible with existing structures. The “improvements to the project” were also ones that secured a loyal support over “real differences of opinion” that arose when redevelopment of the Bavarian was first proposed, Sarpa noted.
“I give real credit to the neighbors for sticking through the process,” Sarpa said. “If you ask a third party to solve two conflicting positions, typically the outcome is one that neither side can accept as much. … On the fundamental differences we sat down together and worked it out and that takes time.”
The time taken and compromises reached were not lost on City Council members Monday night.
“So often when neighbors come to meetings it’s to protest the actual building of affordable housing next door. Here’s a perfect example of what it takes to not have neighbors show up and say, `what are all these houses doing in my back yard,'” said Councilman Tony Hershey.
For Savanah’s other application, Sarpa and architect Bill Poss gave the council a preliminary overview on what they’d like to build on two separate lots at the base of Aspen Mountain.
In place of the Grand Aspen, Savanah proposed 150 “moderately priced, upscale” hotel units. And further up on South Mill Street, Savanah submitted a plan to construct 17 residential units, four of which would be deed restricted.
Tying the components of the two applications together, Sarpa indicated that the townhouses and single-family homes at the “Top of Mill” were “the key to the project.”
Since hotels generally aren’t “a big money maker” and the Bavarian redevelopment will be built at a “significant subsidy,” it will be up to lot 3 or the Top of Mill to make it worth Savanah’s while.
“The profit for Savanah will come to rest on residential units. This has to work for the other pieces to work,” Sarpa said.
Both of Savanah’s applications were tabled to future meetings. The next meeting for the hotel/ townhome application will be Oct. 12. The next hearing for the Bavarian project will be Nov. 8.
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