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Developers try to beat the clock in Aspen

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
ALL |

ASPEN – At the start of Monday night’s Aspen City Council meeting, Mayor Mick Ireland and others pointed to the many development applications that have streamed into the Community Development Department in recent weeks.

They cited the filings as proof that building owners and their hired planners are hoping to get their projects reviewed under existing land-use rules that aren’t as stringent as new ones approved later in the special meeting by a 3-1 vote. The regulations include a maximum height limit of 28 feet for new projects or additions to existing buildings in the downtown area – a 14-foot or 10-foot reduction from existing rules, depending on the location of the property – and take effect one month from now.

The new regulations are designed, supporters said, to cut down on the many development projects being driven by lucrative free-market housing components in lieu of commercial projects that encourage businesses that aim to serve the needs of local residents.



A check of the department’s filings show seven development applications have been submitted since March 9, less than two weeks after Councilman Torre attempted to get his fellow councilmen to pass an emergency ordinance that was similar to the one Ireland was able to push through on Monday. Another proposal was submitted Feb. 15.

All of the applications will have to undergo various reviews, starting with city planners and flowing through the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission, the City Council or a mix of the entities.



The following project capsules provide a short breakdown of each request, starting with the name of the applicant and including information about the location, design plans and the involved players:

• Boogie’s Building of Aspen LLC: Represented by Kim Weil, of Poss Architecture, and by land-use planner Sunny Vann, property owner Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass wants to add a third-story residential unit to the top of his existing building at 534 E. Cooper Ave. Currently, his two-story building houses a diner and retail shop.

“The applicant is also interested in the possibility of increasing the existing net leasable area by enclosing an existing deck,” wrote Sara Adams, senior planner for the city, in a summary.

With the penthouse, the second-story enclosure and other improvements, Weinglass would increase the floor area of his building from 8,394 square feet to 12,500 square feet. His building’s height would rise from 31.6 feet to between 38 and 42 feet.

• 434 E. Cooper LLC: The applicant, which has an option to buy the two-story Mountain Plaza Building at the corner of East Cooper Avenue and South Galena Street from Bert Bidwell Investment Corp., hopes to tear down the 47-year-old structure and build a new one.

Charles Cunniffe Architects and Haas Land Planning are listed as project representatives. In 2007, a project to tear down the building and replace it was approved by the Historic Preservation Commission but was scrapped by the owner when it appeared that the council didn’t like the plans.

“After the second HPC approval and during the council’s review of the revised proposal, the owner of the property withdrew the application,” an application summary states.

Plans call for a 28-foot-high, two-story building with subgrade space, an outdoor deck and no residential component.

“The two previous redevelopment proposals for this property entailed three-story mixed-use buildings,” planner Mitch Haas wrote. “The current proposal envisions a two-story building with only commercial retail space.”

The building would include leasable spaces of various sizes totaling 13,417 square feet – roughly a 2,500-square-foot reduction from the current building size. According to the application, no special variances are required.

“The existing structure actually detracts from the integrity of the historic district as it occupies one of if not the most important corners in Aspen’s downtown area but does not provide or enhance the streetscape in the manners provided by Aspen Historic Preservation guidelines,” Haas wrote. “The building’s arcades, hard-to-locate front doors and sunken courtyard have all played a part in eroding this corner for the past 47 years.”

Commercial broker Karen Setterfield said the property was listed for $30 million in late 2010 – the most expensive property up for sale downtown. Recently, the price was reduced, and the property was placed under contract. Setterfield said she could not identify the potential buyer beyond the listed name on the application, 434 E. Cooper Ave. LLC.

The location is the home of the retailer Kemosabe, the Hunter Bar and several office spaces.

• 204 S. Galena LLC: This applicant, also represented by Charles Cunniffe Architects, wants to fill in several existing parking spaces with a two-story building. The location is currently the home of The Gap and is sometimes informally referred to as The Gap Building.

The owner of the property, Colorado Cable Co., has authorized the applicant, which has the property under contract, “to pursue and obtain city approval of modifications and improvements,” a summary written by Adams states.

“The applicant is interested in filling in the existing parking spaces with a two-story building,” the summary adds. “The new building is proposed to be in single ownership and divided into (four) separate retail spaces.”

Cunniffe wrote that the applicant “seeks to demolish the existing single-story building, currently occupied by one retail tenant. The new building will be primarily one story in height, with two stories along the back of the property. A rooftop deck will be above the single-story portion of the building.”

The applicant needs city approval for a variance to increase the maximum height of the two-story element to 34 feet.

• 610 E. Hyman LLC: The applicant is seeking designation to the Aspen Modern program, which seeks assurances for the building’s historic preservation in exchange for the granting of development incentives for a remodeling project.

The structure was designed by architect “Ellie” Buchanan and built in 1962.

“The applicant intends to complete a remodel that will include a two-level addition to the alley side of the building,” wrote Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer.

The first level would include two new office spaces, and the second level would house an expansion of an existing free-market residential unit. The building currently houses offices for Charles Cunniffe Architects.

One incentive the applicant seeks involves a waiver of “any potential applicable elevator and/or (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility requirements,” a summary states. Other incentives would be 10 years of vested property rights and a code variation “to accommodate the proposed free-market residential net livable and floor areas.”

If approved as currently designed, the building would rise to 37 feet above street level.

• Other applications: Development applications also have been filed on behalf of 720 E. Hyman Ave., home of Timberline Bank and several offices; 400 E. Hyman Ave., known as the Tom Thumb Building; 420 E. Hyman Ave., which houses the restaurant Zocalito; and 623 E. Hopkins, the location of Susie’s Consignments.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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