City strikes deal on use of Bavarian Inn
Despite the impassioned resistance of Mayor Rachel Richards, the developers of a new 150-room hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain have won a hard-fought battle to house some of their employees in the redeveloped Bavarian Inn.
The victory came at a hearing before the City Council Monday night, at which Savanah Limited Partnership, the company that built the Ritz-Carlton Aspen (now the St. Regis hotel) won conceptual approval to build luxury housing around the top of South Mill Street at the base of Aspen Mountain, and to redevelop the old Grand Aspen Hotel into a new, 150-room hotel.
As part of the development review process, the company has promised to house any additional employees who work at the new hotel, above the number who have historically worked at the Grand Aspen. The number of new employees is projected to be 41.
The company had hoped to house all those employees at a new affordable housing project that Savanah plans to build on the site of the Bavarian Inn on Seventh Street. The redeveloped Bavarian is to house 43 employees.
But Richards had pushed the City Council to rule that the Bavarian Inn redevelopment was promised to Aspen voters in return for the voters’ 1990 approval of the Ritz.
She pointed out on Monday that, if Savanah were forced to honor that promise, and house all 41 employees elsewhere, the city would gain, in total, housing for some 84 people – the 41 Savanah employees plus whoever ended up living in the redeveloped Bavarian.
Savanah spokesman John Sarpa has argued that no such promise was made, and that Savanah has been holding onto the Bavarian to meet its ongoing housing requirements, including the Grand Aspen project.
But on Monday, Sarpa agreed to go along with a “compromise” that would turn 70 percent of the Bavarian Inn’s housing units over to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority for sale or rent to the general public. The remaining 30 percent, under a proposal first suggested by Councilman Terry Paulson, would go to Savanah.
In a lengthy series of public hearings last night, the rest of the council was won over to Paulson’s proposal, after hearing a number of citizens argue on both sides of the question.
“I’m sympathetic to Rachel’s point of view,” said council member Tom McCabe. But, he added, “I can see that legitimately there is room for either opinion … so a compromise to me seems to be in order.”
Under the terms of the compromise, Savanah will get room for 13 workers at the Bavarian, and must house 28 employees elsewhere. The company already was planning to house 12 workers in the hotel itself, and at one point Paulson was about to require that an additional 10 be accommodated at the hotel.
But a last-minute appeal from Sarpa convinced the council to simply require that all 41 employees must be housed within the city limits of Aspen.
In addition, the hotel can be expanded from its planned 106,000 square feet up to a maximum of 115,000 square feet, in order to make room for the extra housing, if necessary.
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