Downtown Aspen project sees shrinkage | AspenTimes.com

Downtown Aspen project sees shrinkage

Courtesy of Rowland + Broughton Architecture and UA rendering of what a new Mountain Plaza Building would look like from the corner of Galena Street and the Cooper Avenue Mall.

ASPEN – A smaller, toned-down development plan has replaced an earlier version for the Mountain Plaza Building, situated in arguably one of the busiest parts of downtown Aspen.

Changes have been made in response to concerns raised by members of the public and the Aspen City Council when the development plan was reviewed in 2007. Issues revolved around the building’s size and the lack of public amenity space.

The building’s size now has been shaved by about 5,400 square feet from the first proposal, which couldn’t get the council’s majority support for approval.

The building, located at the northwest corner of Galena Street and the Cooper Avenue Mall, also has been moved back from the street as part of the proposal.

The earlier plan had the building out to the lot line, leaving no pedestrian area. The current proposal has a setback of 18 feet facing Galena Street and 60 feet on the mall, giving room for people to circulate around the building. The setbacks also attempt to break up the perceived mass of the building and to better relate to the historic context of downtown, according to land planner Mitch Haas.

The current sunken courtyard, which is one of the building’s more recognizable features, would be eliminated, and two levels of sub-grade commercial space is being proposed.

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Instead of four free-market condos on the second and third floors, there are now three. Those units’ sizes also have been reduced from what was first proposed.

“This new design incorporates a public amenity space of more than 1,000 square feet and additional commercial space, including smaller street-level spaces and a large subgrade space,” Haas wrote in the development application. “The square footage of the free-market residences has been reduced by [more than] 33 percent.”

Mark Bidwell and his development team, which includes Haas and local architectural firm, Rowland + Broughton, will present the changes to council Jan. 11.

“This is a great-looking building and stacks up to what it ought to be,” Haas said, adding the architecture is now western vernacular instead of the neo-classical as first presented. “The whole style has changed.”

The first proposal attempted to emulate the architecture of Aspen’s oldest structures like the Elk’s Building and the Wheeler Opera House. But after some council members expressed their dislike for the design, architects went back to the drawing board.

The mixed-use project includes three levels from the street and two below ground. The entire building would contain commercial, affordable housing and free-market residential units. Commercial space accounts for 11,433 square feet; affordable housing takes up 1,567 square feet; and free-market residential is 5,078 square feet.

The below-ground space includes a 10-car parking garage, which would be accessed by an auto lift. The basement space would be 5,160 square feet of commercial or office space, as well as a storage area.

The street level would contain four commercial spaces, a pedestrian area along the mall and entryway to the basement and upper floors.

The second level would have three commercial spaces, one free-market studio and two one-bedroom employee housing units. The third level contains two free-market residential units and deck space.

In 2006, the building was approved by the city’s historic preservation commission to be demolished. But that decision was appealed to the City Council. Ultimately, demolition approval was upheld.

The planning and zoning commission had recommended that the building be subdivided for condominiums. The council denied the subdivision request but approved reconsideration of the application. The new design was remanded back to the Historic Preservation Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission, and is now before the council.

One of the issues with the proposal will likely be the council requiring a detailed construction management plan so the impacts of demolition and reconstruction are as minimized as much as possible.

“We’ve put together a construction plan with the help of [the city] engineering office,” Haas said, adding the site is difficult because it’s on a busy mall and is on a tight building envelope. “We can meet the city’s requirements … but construction is what it is. You can’t build something without bothering somebody.”

csack@aspentimes.com