Gorsuch Haus redesign gets some accolades, but questions remain for Aspen P&Z
THE FUTURE LIFT 1A
The replacement lift would be a high-speed detachable quad chairlift capable of hauling 1,200 passengers per hour, according to David Corbin, vice president of planning and development for Aspen Skiing Co.
The riding time would be reduced from the existing 8 minutes to 3 ½ or four, he said.
The current Lift 1A averages about 799 passenger trips all day long during ski season and 2,332 on the peak days. That accounts for about 5 percent of the skiers and riders on Aspen Mountain. The attraction of a high-speed lift with development at the base could boost the figure to about 20 percent, Corbin said.
The timing of replacement of the lift is unknown. Construction would be triggered by the developer of the Gorsuch Haus hotel getting approval.
The Gorsuch Haus project is better after refinements, some members of the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission said Tuesday, but it remains to be seen if it’s good enough to earn a recommendation for approval.
The planning commission took no formal vote but took its first look at the redesigned and smaller project at the base of Lift 1A. The hotel’s floor area remained about the same as before at 67,342 square feet, but the total square footage was reduced 7 percent to 124,777, according to Richard Shaw of Design Workshop, the land-use planner for the project.
There will be 60 hotel rooms, seven condominiums required to be in the rental pool and six free-market condos.
The team for developer Norway Island LLC emphasized the redesign over the reduction. An “elbow” of the hotel that curved around on the northeast side of the project and cradled the proposed replacement Lift 1A was eliminated. That opens the historic view corridor up the mountain and makes the lift more accessible.
“There’s removal of any sense of a private lift,” Shaw said.
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Remove two floors?
Planning commission members didn’t dive into details because the city planning staff wasn’t able to do a thorough review of the refinements. The revised plan was turned in too late last week to allow extensive review, said Jennifer Phelan, deputy planning director of the city. Nevertheless, some of the board members gave a glimpse of what they were thinking.
“I do think you’ve come a really long way,” said board member Kelly McNicholas Kury. She credited the redesign with opening the view, improving public circulation and alleviating concerns about the lift being private.
Board member Spence McKnight said he thought removing the top two stories of the hotel would make it “the perfect building.”
The hotel’s maximum height is 49 feet and it is five stories. However, the appearance will make it appear taller at places.
Looking for a lift
As was the case in two earlier hearings held about Gorsuch Haus, the proposal to replace Lift 1A remained a stumbling block. The redesign will allow the chairlift’s bottom terminal to move 20 feet downslope, but it will still be 66 feet lateral and diagonal on the slope than the loading terminal for the existing Lift 1A.
“I’m really appalled that the lift situation is what it is,” said planning board member Jasmine Tygre. She added that it’s hard to believe that a solution cannot be found to extend the lift down to Dean Street.
The board asked the planning staff to research what role the planning commission can play on the lift situation.
“Everybody keeps punting right now,” McKnight said.
As proposed, a shuttle system will be used to haul skiers and snowboarders to the Lift 1A base from Rubey Park and stops in between. The idea of a platter lift, where riders place a plate-like seat between their legs and sit on it, has been floated to provide access lower on the slope. That lift would go through a corridor between buildings in the Lift One Condominiums, a project that is approved but not yet built.
However, many residents have spoken in favor of extending the Lift 1A replacement farther downslope. Part-time resident Don Gilbert said there needs to be a better ski lift solution.
“I don’t understand why it has to be so difficult for the townspeople to get to this lift,” he said.
Skico supports plan
The Gorsuch Haus team says its plan will keep the option open of extending the lift. Jim DeFrancia, president of Lowe Enterprises, a firm that is a partner in the development group, said a platter lift won’t work.
David Corbin, Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of planning and development, concurred, saying it “isn’t viable for a number of reasons.”
It is too difficult to push snow or make snow and maintain it in the corridor between the Lift One buildings, Corbin said. In addition, the lift would have to be shut down whenever skiers were traveling down the corridor, he said.
Corbin endorsed the Norway Island LLC plan as viable.
“Obviously we still have an interest in whether the skiing works,” he said. (See factbox.)
The planning commission voted to continue the hearing until Sept. 20 after giving direction on what issues they want to delve into further.
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