Bidwell redevelopment next in line |

Bidwell redevelopment next in line

ASPEN ” The owners of the former Bidwell building at the corner of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street are next in line seeking redevelopment approval.

On Monday, the project’s planner, Mitch Haas, asked the Aspen City Council for permission to subdivide the building so it can be sold into separate interests. Haas, who represents Bert Bidwell Investment Corp., described the project as necessary because the building is so old and poorly designed that businesses can’t stay afloat there.

Kemosabe and Noori’s Collection are the most notable tenants in the building, and there are others that are not as visible.

“It’s a D-minus building in an A-plus location,” Haas said, adding the building has structural problems and doesn’t meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The proposal is to convert the existing two-story building into three stories with parking underneath. The mixed-use building would house commercial and office space on the street level, with additional space on the third level, which would be shared by three affordable housing units.

The third level would be three free-market condos that would be 2,000 square feet each. A previous council limited the square footage on the free-market units to create density and vitality.

“So they would be empty 2,000-square-foot condos instead of empty 5,000-square-foot ones?” Mayor Mick Ireland joked.

The building would be 41 feet at its highest and 39 feet tall along the pedestrian mall.

The building owner already has approval for demolition, which was granted by the Historic Preservation Commission and a previous Aspen City Council. Both bodies also reviewed the building for historic designation, and it was determined there was no historical significance.

Ireland and some council members pointed out that the city code allows for demolition permits without consideration of what will replace the old structure. They agreed that the weakness in the code should be addressed.

Some council members expressed concern that if the building is redeveloped, it will increase the rent on tenants who do business there.

Haas said he couldn’t speak to that notion, but the real problem is that businesses aren’t getting the traffic needed to generate enough revenue.

“They haven’t been able to stay. … It’s not an issue of rent but an issue of the building,” he said.

Councilman Steve Skadron asked Haas to consider agreeing to a condition of approval that a portion of the building is exclusively set aside for locally serving businesses, specifically medical offices.

“That would help me for the subdivision approval and it meeting the Aspen Area Community Plan,” Skadron said of his expected vote on the proposal.

A public hearing and a second review on the proposal is scheduled for March 24. Haas said the application was submitted in 2006, and significant time and money has been spent on planning the project.

He is seeking approval with minimal changes.

“I’m hoping we don’t have to start over and go back two years,” Haas told the council.

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