Bidwell building can be demolished
Despite vehement objections by Councilwoman Rachel Richards, the Aspen City Council voted 3-2 to uphold a decision by the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission to allow demolition of the Mountain Plaza building.The building, also known as the Bidwell building, is at the corner of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue, where Kemo Sabe is located. It was designed by noted Aspen architect Fritz Benedict. Its owners are pursuing plans to redevelop the property so extensively that it has been described as essentially a raze-and-replace project.The council was allowed to reverse HPC’s decision, amend the conditions of the approval or send it back to HPC for a rehearing if it decided that the initial HPC decision involved a denial of due process, an abuse of the HPC’s discretion or that it exceeded the commission’s jurisdiction.Richards found a number of aspects of HPC’s decision troubling, particularly the commission’s interviews with tenants of the building, which she supposed were not subjected to public review guidelines; what she called the commission’s “deliberate disassociation” from historic ties to Benedict; and whether or not redevelopment could be more commercially successful.”I find that to exceed the jurisdiction of the HPC,” she said.Ultimately, the majority of council prevailed, with Richards and Councilman Torre dissenting. Thus, HPC’s decision to allow demolition of the building stands.Also at Monday’s meeting, the council approved changes to the Ajax Mountain building, at 520 E. Durant Ave. The approval allows for the addition of one free-market unit and one affordable-housing unit at the property.At Richards’ urging, the owner agreed to change the status of the affordable-housing unit from Category 4 to Category 3, although code allows for the higher category.The council also approved exceptions for some homes at the Burlingame affordable-housing development. Several buyers will enjoy larger rear-yard setbacks for accessory buildings and some height increases where their lots slope downward away from the street (overall height on the street remains at 25 feet). The council did not approve buyers’ requests for increased floor area, and owners whose lots slope upward toward the street will have to await a future ruling on heights.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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