Construction of new bank on Aspen’s Main Street set to begin this week |

Construction of new bank on Aspen’s Main Street set to begin this week

Construction is set to begin this week on a prominent corner in downtown Aspen on Main Street that will be the location of a bank.

Landlord Mark Hunt and his development partner Centaur Construction are building on the former site of Conoco gas station at 232 E. Main St., and demolition and tank removal are scheduled to take a month, with construction of the new building to be completed by this fall and interior work through early 2021.

Chase Bank will occupy the new building, which is designed as a contemporary interpretation of a mountain chalet.

“I’m really excited about this building, more than any other in our portfolio,” said Spiro Tsaparas, CEO of Centaur, who along with Hunt, are developing several properties in town, including the redevelopment of the Crystal Palace into a boutique hotel on Hyman Avenue.

The Main Street property, which Hunt bought for $6 million in 2014, was originally envisioned to be developed into a commercial building.

But after Hunt was approached by then-Mayor Steve Skadron, who wanted to fill a niche of affordable accommodations in town, Hunt changed plans and designed a 37-room, three-story lodge.

But a majority of Aspen voters shot down the proposal in 2015 after City Council referred a ballot question that was initiated by a citizen’s group, led by Councilman Ward Hauenstein prior to him being elected.

The vote was instigated by a petition drive that successfully aimed to overturn City Council’s variances given to the lodge. Those concessions included giving the lodge more than three times its allowable floor area for the site, 15,000 square feet, in addition to variances for employee housing and setbacks. However, the building met the allowable volume envelope requirements at the time, according to Tsapras.

Hunt and his team campaigned heavily, spending about $50,000, but it wasn’t enough to convince residents that a lodge was better than a commercial building.

“Unfortunately, all of our efforts of knocking on doors and campaigning did not yield a successful result for us,” Tsaparas said. “It was a business decision to make it a bank.”

Instead of what could have been millions of dollars in sales tax revenue with a lodge and restaurant, the building will house what will be the town’s eighth financial institution.

Over 60% of the electorate chose the commercial building over the lodge, because they worried about density, traffic and where guests were going to park since onsite parking was not part of the proposal.

The new building, which was approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission in 2017, will be roughly 5,900 square feet and 21 feet tall.

The two-story building is well below the allowed height limit and is designed to blend into Main Street’s historic district, according to the application filed with the historic commission by land-use planner Sara Adams.

“It incorporates lively outdoor space to energize Main Street, and redefines the street corner,” she wrote. “The proposed building is a fresh approach to new construction in the historic district that blends Victorian and modern by drawing inspiration from the gable forms of the historic Victorians and the deep overhang of the chalet style represented by the Cortina Lodge (next door).”

The corner lot also will have landscaped areas and sidewalks, creating a better pedestrian experience than what is currently there with the gas station parking lot.

Hunt will mitigate for nearly eight full-time employees generated by the development, which he will do with housing credits.

Chase, currently located in a Hyman Avenue Mall building Hunt and his investors own, is expected to move to Main Street next year.