City trims Obermeyer project
“Too tall” were the two words on everybody’s lips Tuesday during an Aspen City Council review of preliminary plans for the Obermeyer Place development.Council members ordered the publicly appointed task force designing the project to lop off the partial fifth floors it had envisioned in the mixed-use project, even if it means losing some of the affordable commercial space and affordable housing in the development.The proposed redevelopment encompasses several private properties and some city land along Rio Grande Place and East Bleeker Street, in a corner of town tucked between the Concept 600 building on Main Street and Rio Grande Park. The property currently contains a funky mix of residences and commercial buildings, a number of which belong to Klaus Obermeyer. The area is zoned SCI, or service/commercial/industrial, accommodating auto mechanics, a glass shop, a welder and similar service businesses.Trying to boost the amount of SCI space and provide affordable housing forced designers to go up with the project and include about 106,000 square feet of free-market condos.The amount of free-market housing alarmed some council members. The partial fifth floors on three of the four proposed buildings bothered everybody.”We have some real concerns, from what we’ve been hearing in the community, about if this is a viable project,” said architect Bob Schiller.Schiller, who has been working with the task force, briefed the council on the designs. The task force was seeking council input before it begins putting together a formal proposal to bring forward in August.”I personally would like to see the height stay at four stories. I think that’s pushing it,” said Councilman Tim Semrau.”I agree that five and six stories is too high. You gotta go down,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.Six stories have never been proposed, though that height has been discussed and the task force did not rule out that possibility, Schiller said.”There are also members of the community concerned about the fourth floor,” said Debra Moore, a resident of the nearby Oklahoma Flats neighborhood. “Four floors is pretty high.”But the topography of the area, as the land drops considerably from Main Street to the park, makes it an ideal place to consider four-story buildings, said Councilman Tom McCabe, a member of the planning task force.”It’s one of the better opportunities we have in the community for that to happen,” he said.Cutting the height of the buildings means losing some of the free-market housing that subsidizes other elements of the project, whether it’s underground parking, the SCI space or the affordable housing, Schiller warned.Some council members said they would live with less SCI space. Others said they were willing to see the planned 20 units of affordable housing cut back, too, or the price of the housing hiked to the most expensive type.”I think we all agree revitalizing that area is a fantastic project,” said Klanderud, who also serves on the task force.”I do think it’s in the best interests of the community to do something there,” she said. “The best way to get there, I guess, is the question.”[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com.]
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City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.