City mulls new Bidwell plan
ASPEN ” The plan to redevelop a building in the heart of downtown Aspen has gotten new life now that its owner has acquiesced to public concerns over a previous proposal that was thought to be too big and took away public space.
The Aspen City Council on Monday voted 4 to 1 to remand the redevelopment plan of the Bidwell Building, also known as the Mountain Plaza Building, back to the Planning and Zoning, and Historic Preservation commissions, for further review.
That’s because the owner, Mark Bidwell, has substantially changed the plan, which now includes a public plaza, restaurant space, more commercial square footage and fewer residential units.
The council on May 27 shot down Bidwell’s earlier proposal, which called for demolishing the existing 11,800-square-foot structure and making it nearly two times as large. The plan included commercial and office space on the street level, with additional space on the second level along with three affordable-housing units. The third level would have been three free-market condos of 2,000 square feet each. Underground parking would have been available for the building’s tenants.
Planner Mitch Haas on June 9 argued successfully to the council that his client was blind-sided by the vehemence of the public’s opposition and that a new plan would be more to the liking of the community.
That plan was unveiled on Monday before council members, the majority of whom said the design team was on the right track with the changes. Councilman Jack Johnson voted against further review, saying redeveloping the building will prompt others around it to want to go bigger.
The building, located at the corner of the Cooper Avenue Mall and Galena Street, currently has a subgrade open area that, at present, leads to retailer Noori’s Collection. Because there’s no structure on that part of the property, the opening offers a sight line for people sitting across the street at Paradise Bakery.
The prior plan proposed the area be eliminated and a solid structure built to the lot line on the pedestrian mall.
The new proposal includes 1,000 square feet of public space at the corner, which would be 18 feet by 60 feet in a rectangular shape.
Bidwell also has proposed eliminating subterranean parking and putting subgrade commercial space there instead. Also, the number of residential units has been reduced by two, leaving two free-market condos and two affordable housing units.
The building’s third story would be set back 30 to 40 feet from both Galena Street and Cooper Avenue in an effort to minimize visual impacts. At its tallest point, the new building would be 37 feet tall. The first and second levels would be 15 and 26 feet tall, respectively.
Community Development Director Chris Bendon said that because the project has changed so substantially, it should go through conceptual review by the advisory boards for a recommendation to the council, which will make the final decision.
Before it was denied, the Bidwell redevelopment proposal had been in the review process for 2 1/2 years and has been subject to more than a dozen public meetings.
And now it appears that several more meetings will be held before the fate of what many consider the town square and one of the most important gathering areas in the city is decided.
Terry Butler, who owns the Residence Hotel, said Monday she opposes the project because the construction impacts will likely shut down her business. She asked the council to deny the new plans and let the developer attempt a remodel within the existing structure.
From the design team’s perspective, the purpose of Monday’s meeting was to get direction from the council as to whether it should proceed with their revamped plans.
“It’s definitely movements in the right direction,” said City Councilman Dwayne Romero, who added that a detailed construction management plan will be needed for the area because it’s located in the heart of the commercial core and will impact everyone around it.
City Councilman Steve Skadron said he appreciates the new design of the building, which includes a western vernacular with wood siding.
“I think it’s a move in the right direction,” he said.
The proposal is scheduled to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 19 and the Historic Preservation Commission in September.
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