Boomerang redevelopment returns to Aspen City Council
August 15, 2017
Two investors are poised to acquire the old Boomerang Lodge property in Aspen, but only if the City Council is willing to accept their changes proposed for the development.
Marshall Tycher and Eric Witmondt formed ME Aspen Ventures One LLC in February. They have the property under contract to buy from Aspen FSP ABR LLC, which paid $13.5 million for the land and its aging lodge in June 2005. The next year most of the lodge was demolished to make way for a development that has yet to happen.
On Monday, Tycher introduced himself to City Council in the first round of talks about amending approvals the redevelopment earned in 2006. Tycher told a reporter after the meeting that he and his partner plan to buy the property only if they can lock in the new approvals. He declined to reveal how much the 27,000-square-foot property — of which only the historically designated east wing exists — is under contract for purchase.
Located at 500 W. Hopkins Ave., the property has gone through several iterations for redevelopment. Litigation by neighbors thwarted plans to convert it into affordable housing. That prompted the owners, who had struggled to get financing because of the Great Recession, in 2015 to revert back to the 2006 approvals. Those approvals allow for 47 lodge keys, 29 lodge units, five free-market residential units and two affordable-housing units.
The current owner received two extensions of vested rights to build the lodge because of the Great Recession. The first extension was granted by the City Council in 2009, the second in 2015.
Now Tycher and Witmondt, who was not at the meeting, are seeking the council's blessing to increase the average unit size from 812 square feet to 1,040 square feet. With the rooms becoming predominantly suites under the new proposal, they would range in size from 800 square feet to 1,732 square feet.
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Tycher and Witmondt also want to reduce the number of lodge units from the approved number of 29 to 23. The number of lodge keys, 47, would remain the same.
The city's deputy planning director, Jennifer Phelan, is recommending that the lodge units do not exceed 1,500 square feet to allow room for other lodge amenities such as gathering space.
"I support the 1,500-foot max when you're talking about taking away" other space, City Councilwoman Ann Mullins said. "There's so little left of the original lodge that it would be a shame to see any more disappear than what needs to."
Mayor Steve Skadron said he would want assurances from the developers that the units are not converted into condominiums.
"If I had the authority, I would require a deed restriction of the rooms to prevent conversion of lodge rooms into condos, but we can't do that," he said. "But I want to discuss at the public hearing conditions of approval that speaks" to prevent that.
The prospective buyers plan to keep the approved floor area of 46,140 square feet and underground parking, which all meet Aspen's newer, revised land-use code, Phelan told the council. Head-in parking, at the request of the city's Parking and Engineering departments, would be replaced by parallel parking on South Fourth Street, which fronts the Boomerang property's east side.
By a 5-0 vote, the council unanimously approved the project on first reading. Much deeper scrutiny, however, will come at a public hearing set for Sept. 11. That's when residents can tell council members what they view as the proposal's pros and cons.
Should the council approve the project at the next hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission would be the most likely body to give it a detailed review and commercial design review, Phelan said. City Council could call up Planning and Zoning's decision for further review.
Tycher is chairman of Roseland Residential Trust, a New Jersey-based subsidiary of Mack-Cali Realty Corp. Witmondt is chairman of Woodmont Properties, which also is located in New Jersey.
Aspen private planner Chris Bendon is representing the pair in their negotiations with City Council.