Developers scale back Lodge plan
ASPEN Developers of the failed Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal have done what they said couldn’t be done: They made it smaller.John Sarpa, a principal for Centurion Partners, said he submitted a new proposal to city officials on Thursday that reduces the project by 24,000 square feet, or 14 percent of floor area.Developers have been able to do that because they have scrapped their plans to snowmelt South Aspen Street, shaving millions of dollars off the project.Eliminating that component made it economically feasible to do away with the four whole ownership units, which were 3,600 square feet each. However, four fractional units have been added to the original 21. The residential component has been reduced 7,181 square feet, and the largest units have gone from about 3,600 square feet to about 2,800 square feet.The 80 hotel rooms have been shaved down to 71, and their size has been reduced from 527 square feet to 520 square feet. The number of suites has been reduced from 24 to 10, and the standard hotel rooms have been increased from 56 to 61. The overall reduction of hotel rooms is 10,374 square feet.A large portion of the hotel’s spa area has been reduced, as well as the back of the house operations, totaling nearly 6,500 square feet. Thirty-three parking spaces in the underground parking garage also have been removed.The changes have enabled developers to remove the entire top third floor of the south building and reduce the highest point from 55 feet to 45 feet.In total, the original 175,000-square-foot hotel is now 150,936 square feet, which is smaller than the Grand Hyatt, Sarpa said. The size reduction also means it will take fewer employees – now estimated to be 165 instead of the 190 people thought it would take to run the hotel. Sarpa said they will still provide affordable housing for 73 percent of the employees generated, or 135 people.The changes were prompted after Sarpa and his partners reviewed the video tape of the Aug. 13 City Council meeting when the project was rejected in a 3-2 vote. Some of the council members had suggested to developers that they didn’t need to snowmelt the road.”That frankly didn’t sink in,” Sarpa said of the marathon meeting that ended at 12:30 a.m. “It was a paradigm shift for us to even think about getting rid of the snowmelt system. We didn’t think it was an option.”For the past two years, the direction previous councils and other governing bodies had given Sarpa was to snowmelt the road. The concerns then had focused on making the snowmelt system environmentally sound, which Sarpa and his partners had spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to do.”We’ll leave the on-street parking alone and keep the street the same with some winter improvements,” Sarpa said. “It saved us millions of dollars in costs so then we asked ourselves, ‘how can we improve the program and make it economically feasible?'”After the City Council rejected the project two weeks ago, Sarpa immediately asked it to consider putting the development proposal to the voters as a referendum. The City Council is scheduled to discuss that issue on Monday night. Now the discussion will likely focus on whether the council will consider a condensed version of the project.City Council members who voted against the project – Mayor Mick Ireland, and Councilmen Jack Johnson and J.E. DeVilbiss – all said the project was too big. “I beg the applicant to consider two-thirds the development,” Ireland said at the Aug. 13 meeting. “I ask, beg and implore to make it smaller.”Sarpa said that after four years of going through the review process and changing the project significantly based on feedback from the community, the Planning and Zoning Commission, past City Councils and the current one, he couldn’t make the economics work if the hotel is any smaller.”We can’t. … We would’ve if we could,” he said at the meeting. “We’ve done our best.”Apparently that’s not the case.The City Council is scheduled to discuss the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal on Monday, Aug. 27 at 5 p.m. in the basement of City Hall.