Conner cabins proposal moves forward
Conceptual plans to redevelop the Conner cabins – three historic cottages behind Aspen City Hall – won unanimous approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission this week.Developer Greg Hills said he expects his team to be back before the HPC in late March or early April to seek final approval, now that most of the specifics of the project have been nailed down in the conceptual review.He has proposed refurbishing the three historic miner’s cottages along East Hopkins for use as commercial offices, and constructing a trio of new, three-story residences behind them.Aside from HPC final approval, the only other go-ahead must come from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which will take up the intrusion of part of the project into a protected “view plane.” The city code protects the view from the Pitkin County Courthouse steps toward Aspen Mountain. New construction that impedes the view must get the P&Z’s OK even if it’s within the height limits contained in the code, as is Hills’ project, said Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer.The plan for the cabin properties breezed through its hearing before the HPC on Wednesday. The commission and the development team had hashed out various issues during several prior meetings.”I think this is spectacular,” said HPC member Michael Hoffman. “I think this will be a nationally recognized project.””I feel this in an excellent context for a preservation project like this,” added Jeffrey Halferty, HPC chairman.The redevelopment would, however, significantly alter a block of downtown Aspen that has seen little change in more than a century. The cabins date to at least 1893, according to Guthrie. The block also contains Aspen City Hall and St. Mary Church and rectory. All are historic structures.Additions that have been tacked onto the cottages and outbuildings behind them will be razed under the redevelopment plan.The cottages are slated for office use even though the city banned new offices on the ground floor of buildings in the commercial core last fall. The redevelopment application had been submitted before the new rules took effect, Guthrie said.Since they are former residences, the cottages aren’t necessarily ideal retail spaces anyway, she added.”They don’t have commercial storefronts,” Guthrie noted.Hills represents Austin-Lawrence Partners, which has an option to purchase the cottage properties.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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