Chamber gives new hotel thumbs up
ASPEN In a last-ditch bid to gain support for the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal, Centurion Partners principal John Sarpa on Tuesday secured the thumbs up of Aspen Chamber Resort Association members.After four years of negotiations with city officials and whittling the development to its present size, Centurion Partners will get a final answer from the Aspen City Council on Aug. 13. ACRA officials agreed to write a letter of support for the planned 175,000-square-foot hotel.”If this project isn’t going to go forward, then what is?” Sarpa asked during his presentation.The new hotel, the first to go up in Aspen in 20 years, according to Sarpa, would be better use of the prime real estate at the base of Aspen Mountain’s Lift 1A, he said.Using terms like “run-down” and “a wreck” for an Aspen neighborhood that represents the city during events such as World Cup races, Sarpa called for “something to happen,” adding that the lack of hotel rooms was a major factor in the annual HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival’s recent decision to pull out of town.If denied the hotel project, Sarpa said, the group has approval to build 14 townhomes on the 2.4-acre plot, a move that would earn short-term revenues but would not revitalize the neighborhood.The planned 80-room hotel would include 21 fractional-lodging units, four whole-ownership units, and nearly 4,000 square feet of meeting space. It also would include community perks such as a snowmelt system on South Aspen Street, a $4 million grant to the Aspen Skiing Co. to build a new lift at 1A, a $1-per-bed fee that would benefit local nonprofit organizations, as well as affordable housing for more than 60 percent of the hotel’s employees, Sarpa said.”None of this happens if the townhomes are built. I just can’t understand what could be expected of this property to go forward,” Sarpa said. “We’re so far beyond anything that’s required.”Centurion Partners officials offered a deed restriction on all hotel rooms, ensuring that the building will remain a hotel (not convert to a fractional-sale project) for at least 99 years. Sarpa stressed that the development will make use of geothermal technology and planners will buy energy offsets for the snowmelt system.During construction, workers will commute to the site from the Brush Creek parking lot, and planners will limit the hours of truck trips during construction, Sarpa said.”If this hotel’s not going to go on the side of Aspen Mountain, I don’t know what is,” Sarpa said. “We certainly hope we’re going to build a hotel, not townhomes.””It’s the junkiest part of our community,” said Warren Klug, manager of the Aspen Square Hotel.ACRA chairman Stan Clauson said many in town suffer from the “false dichotomy” that the resort in Aspen has outstripped the community. And he encouraged balance between community issues and the need to foster the local economy.”This is absolutely consistent with the Aspen Area Community Plan,” said former Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud.ACRA members gave near-unanimous approval for drafting a letter of support, with Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley abstaining because, as an elected official, he felt it was inappropriate to weigh in on a decision in another jurisdiction.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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