Highballs and height at issue in Nell project | AspenTimes.com

Highballs and height at issue in Nell project

Jeanne McGovern

Height and happy hour were at the center of debate over the proposed Residences at Little Nell during last night’s Aspen City Council meeting.The council, while encouraged by changes made to the project since it was first presented more than a year ago, would not grant final approval until the developer, Aspen Land Fund LLC, addresses at least these two issues. The proposal will be revisited on Oct. 12.If approved, the luxury timeshare project will be built up the west side of the Little Nell run at the base of Aspen Mountain. It will comprise 24 fractional ownership units, eight hotel rooms, two free-market condominiums, eight on-site affordable housing studios and underground parking, as well as 8,900 square feet of commercial space including a restaurant, three retail spaces and public ski lockers.The Tipple Inn Condominiums, Tippler Nightclub, Tipple Lodge and a single-family residence will be demolished to make way for the Residences, which will be sold in one-eighth shares with lodge services managed by The Little Nell hotel.Though city staffers called the project “encouraging for the base of Aspen Mountain” and at least one council member dubbed it a “handsome” building, others took issue with the building’s height.According to council members and a few concerned citizens in attendance, the Residences were originally said to be 49 feet high at the maximum. Plans before council last night called for a maximum height of 58 feet.”We hope Dean Street becomes the pedestrian walkway that’s always been envisioned,” said the North of Nell’s Joe Raczak. “It’s greatly needed for the base of Aspen Mountain. But an 18 percent increase in height …””If it were an 18 percent increase, that would be significant, but I don’t think that’s the case here,” responded Councilman Tim Semrau.In fact, the building height has remained essentially the same, said planning consultant Sunny Vann. The difference on paper, he said, “reflects the evolution of the project and a better accounting of what’s really there.”In the conceptual plan, the height listed was for one location, on the Galena Street facade; the final plan includes more than 30 different height measurements, with the maximum height being an interior elevator shaft. City planner Chris Bendon agreed the height issue is a point of confusion.”The numbers don’t tell the whole story,” he said, suggesting the developers present council with overlay graphics showing just how the project has changed from conceptual approval to its current rendition.Also under scrutiny from council members were the Residences “public” amenities. Although a fractional ownership lodge, a driving component of the project since its inception has been a public restaurant and bar with a big outdoor deck at the base of the gondola.Council wants to be sure it stays this way; the current plan requires that the establishment be open to the general public for “après-ski services” only when Aspen Mountain is open to skiing and for a minimum of just two hours after the gondola closes.”Two hours seems short to me … I don’t want to be shooing people out,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards. “I don’t want to micromanage, but we want to be sure we satisfy what most people thought they were going to get.””The intention is, and always has been, that this will be a public restaurant and après-ski space,” said Brooke Peterson, the attorney representing the development group.He said the developer envisions an operation like the Ajax Tavern, but “bigger and better,” and is willing to rework the plan’s language to address the council’s concern.”I think the underlying concern here is that this not become a private club,” concluded Mayor Helen Klanderud.The public hearing on the Residences at Little Nell, including the development team’s responses to council members’ concerns, will continue at the Oct. 12 City Council meeting.Jeanne McGovern’s e-mail address is jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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