Change coming to old east side
One of Aspen’s most dilapidated homes – a historic house that preservationists have worried might fall down – is slated for restoration as part of a new east-side subdivision.The long-vacant Griffith home on Walnut Street has been designated as historic by the city and can’t be torn down, but preservationists have feared its “demolition by neglect,” said Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer.Now, restoration of the house and the historic designation of two cabins on the property is proposed as part of a larger development, the Fox Crossing Subdivision.Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission, charged only with review of the plans for the old Victorian and the cabins, appeared generally pleased with the proposal last week.”Overall, staff thinks this is an excellent project,” Guthrie said.Several neighbors, however, were less enthused about the plans for the parcel, where
13 homes could eventually be built on a piece of Aspen’s old east side.A formal development application is yet to come, but developers of Fox Crossing envision 10 lots where eight currently exist, and 13 residences – three lots are designated for duplexes, said Stan Clauson, planning consultant for developers represented by Camilla Auger.The 1964 log cabins, dubbed the “line shacks,” would be linked and an addition and basement would be constructed to make them a single-family home. A basement and rear addition are also planned for the Victorian. A roughly 9,000-square-foot parcel next to the home would be retained as a park, said architect Gilbert Sanchez.Neighbor Jon Busch complained, however, that the proposed development would ignore the existing neighborhood. “Race Street is a virtual wall. It’s a wall of garages,” he said. “It is going to be ugliness, spitting distance from my porch. This depresses me to no end.””We’ve had, for a long time, very low density up there,” added neighbor Gretchen Greenwood. “I see a lot of lots here.”She also questioned the 500-square-foot floor-area bonus proposed as a reward for exemplary historic preservation of the cabins and Victorian.
“It’s really not a restoration. It’s what’s being done everywhere, which is putting a big addition on the back of the cabins. It’s a big addition on the back of the Victorian,” Greenwood said. “An excellent project is the Victorian would stay a Victorian and the cabins would stay the cabins.”Several residents noted Race Street, which also borders the property, is more of a pedestrian thoroughfare than a street – something they don’t want to see change.”Race Street is like a little walkway … it’s part of our community,” said neighbor Robert Zupancis.From the HPC’s perspective, the historic preservation aspects make it a good project, said member Derek Skalko, though the commission delayed action on the proposal until next month.”It is change,” acknowledged HPC member Sarah Broughton.The late Angie Griffith, who spent her summers at the property in Aspen before she died last year, was the daughter of a silver miner and his wife.The Victorian family home had not been lived in for many years; she lived in another modest house on the property.
The old house, while in poor condition, still has much of its original exterior detail, Auger noted.”Many people would consider it beyond saving, but I think it’s a real find,” she said.Auger, representing Walnut Property LLC, a group of developers, also had a hand in seeking new development approvals for the former Mona Frost home in the West End. That house, also abandoned, is currently being restored.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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