Council is for smaller units at Hotel Aspen
December 10, 2013
The Aspen City Council agreed Monday that the 300-square-foot lodging units proposed at Hotel Aspen would boost affordability for visitors. But the proposal's 71 percent increase in cumulative floor space and the $91,845 in fee waivers need further discussion, council members said.
The Hotel Aspen, located at the corner of Main, Garmisch and Bleeker streets, has requested to tear down its existing structure and replace it with a mixture of lodging, free-market residential and affordable housing. If approved, the number of lodging units would increase from 45 to 54, and the cumulative floor space would increase from 21,344 square feet to 36,500 square feet, according to a memo to the council.
Included in the proposal is the addition of four free-market units along Bleeker Street in the form of two duplexes, as well as a sub-grade parking garage. Three on-site, affordable-housing units also would be built in the central area of the 27,000-square-foot lot.
At Monday's council meeting, city planner Sara Adams recommended that the applicant reduce the size of the free-market duplexes and reduce the overall cumulative floor area proposed. Additionally, the memo to council stated that neither the Parks Department nor the Transportation Department support the $91,845 in fee waivers.
Stan Clauson, representing Hotel Aspen, said this is the type of project the council has been discussing for years; one that will provide smaller rooms and enhance the affordability of lodging in Aspen.
"The most significant benefit is the ability to create residential, and at the same time, lodge expansion," Clauson said.
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Council member Dwayne Romero said he wants to hear more justification for the increase in floor space. As a part-owner in small lodges, Romero said he fundamentally supports Hotel Aspen's proposal, in order to increase affordability.
"I just want to make sure that the trade-offs are fair and reasonable and that we're not getting ahead of ourselves and asking for too much," Romero said. "Clearly, I would like to see something approved."
Both council members Adam Frisch and Art Daily said the smaller units offer a product Aspen needs.
"I think it would be a shame if we can't see this Main Street, mid-priced lodge be redeveloped," in some form, Frisch said. "And I hope we work out some kind of free-market component that allows it to be economically feasible, as well as community appropriate."
Daily expressed that the applicant needs to be sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood, and he hopes neighbors will speak out Jan. 13, when council will hold a public hearing and vote on the project.
"I really support the direction of the redevelopment. It will be a marvelous asset to our community," Daily said. "But I don't think we can overdo it in such a way that we injure the rest of that Bleeker Street neighborhood."
In addition, Daily said he would be willing to support some level of fee reduction, in order to encourage the development.
Mayor Steve Skadron was in agreement, though he said he wasn't convinced of the necessity for fee reduction.
"I'm not generally amenable to fee reductions, but I'm willing to hear the argument," Skadron said. "What I'm looking forward to at second reading is understanding why the project can't step down and be more in line with the neighborhood."
Council member Ann Mullins recused herself because she previously reviewed the application as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission.
The HPC approved the conceptual design of the project, 4-0, while the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the proposed project in a 3-1 vote.