Downtown demolition plan gets another look
The planned demolition of a downtown commercial building has some members of the Aspen City Council saying, in effect, “not so fast.”The razing of the Mountain Plaza Building at the corner of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue has already received approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, though some members conceded letting go of the Fritz Benedict-designed building was a tough call. The late Benedict is a revered local architect, but HPC members agreed the building (also known as the Bidwell building) does not function well.Its owners are pursuing plans to redevelop the property so extensively, it has been described as essentially a raze-and-replace project.Council members voted 4-1 last month to “call up” the HPC decision, with Mayor Helen Klanderud dissenting. The review is scheduled tonight during the council’s regular meeting.The council can review an HPC decision and reverse it, amend the conditions of the approval or send it back the HPC for a rehearing. In order to take any of those steps, however, the council must find that the initial HPC decision involved a denial of due process, an abuse of the HPC’s discretion or that it exceeded the commission’s jurisdiction.The Mountain Plaza Building is not designated as historic, but it is under HPC review because it’s within Aspen’s downtown historic district.City staffers have concluded the HPC acted appropriately in approving the demolition and are recommending the council uphold the decision.So is the attorney for Bert Bidwell Investment Co., the building’s owner.”We respectfully request that you affirm the HPC’s decision. We think that the HPC made the correct decision, but even if you disagree with the outcome, you should find that the HPC did not abuse its discretion,” wrote attorney Thomas Fenton Smith in a letter to the council.The Mountain Plaza Building, best known for its longtime tenant, Kemo Sabe, was built in 1965. It is more than 40 years old and the city could designate it as historic, protecting it, without the owner’s consent. The city’s practice, however, has been to seek consent from building owners.The planned redevelopment of the property would fill in the sunken courtyard in front of the L-shaped building. Atop the existing two-story building, two residential floors are envisioned, with the fourth floor set back from the facade.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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