Home proposed at spot where funky Aspen apartments once stood
June 22, 2012
ASPEN – The former Shadowood Apartments, called home by a succession of Aspen residents before they were boarded up nearly a decade ago, have been razed to make way for a proposed single-family home.
Shadowood, which was perched above the Roaring Fork River just east of town, is fondly remembered by many who took a turn residing in the funky digs – a throwback to the days when Aspen was dotted with enclaves of relatively inexpensive, laid-back living.
At one point, local government officials eyed the property’s potential for formal, deed-restricted employee housing, as the privately owned rental property had always housed local workers anyway. Instead, in 2003, building officials declared it uninhabitable. It had been vacant ever since.
A development application filed with Pitkin County for two side-by-side lots at the end of Stillwater Road, where the apartments once stood, calls for a 5,749-square-foot house on the lot where the main Shadowood structure was recently demolished. The 14-unit, four-story apartment building had been visible from Highway 82 across from the Mountain Valley subdivision.
On the second lot, a 2,200-square-foot house that was part of Shadowood, would remain and be remodeled as a single-family residence, according to the application. A new, 1,976-square-foot accessory structure is also proposed.
Shadowood apparently dated back to the late 1960s, but a 1974 plat for the two lots contains a note restricting the two sites to “existing uses and structures.”
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While the county issued a demolition permit for the main apartment building and other smaller buildings, the county staff is wrestling with the restrictions on the plat, according to Mike Kraemer, county planner. The application seeks the removal of the plat note containing the restriction, plus a couple of others, Kraemer said.
“This is a difficult discussion – we’re talking about a plat that was approved in 1974,” he said. “We’re going to discuss that plat note and how we’re going to handle it in this application.”
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, who was serving as a county commissioner when Pitkin County considered the Shadowood site for deed-restricted housing, was surprised Thursday to learn of the development application, given the restriction on the property.
The county took a look at Shadowood in the midst of a lawsuit over its plans to develop Stillwater Ranch, a nearby worker housing project that was eventually built and occupied in 2005.
Neighboring property owners, including part-time Aspen residents Stewart and Lynda Resnick, filed suit against the county and the Resnicks’ representatives offered the county Shadowood in exchange for the Stillwater Ranch site, Ireland recalled. The Resnicks owned Shadowood, located adjacent to the Little Lake Lodge home they built off Stillwater Road.
In the course of considering the deal, the county’s chief building official and Aspen’s fire marshal inspected the Shadowood complex, which consisted of three residential structures, including the large apartment building. They discovered multiple code violations and the fire marshal ordered the big building vacated. Tenants were forced to leave on short notice and the structure was subsequently shuttered.
“The reason we rejected it is we found everything was whacked out of code,” recalled John Ely, county attorney. “It was so far out of compliance.”
Former residents of Shadowood, however, remember the place fondly despite its shortcomings – namely dangers that included faulty wiring (according to the building inspector), inadequate escape routes and wood stoves in every unit of an old, wood building.
“I can’t believe they tore it down. I loved it there,” said Paul Viola, now a Woody Creek resident. “It was a special place to live for sure.”
The main building, nestled amid mature pines, boasted a multitude of balconies and outside stairways to reach the upper units. Bedrooms and tiny apartments tucked into the gables on the top floor had sloping ceilings and a tree-house feel. The complex allowed dogs and sat adjacent to a gravel bike path that follows the river.
Paul and his wife were among various couples who reported conceiving their first child at Shadowood.
“I guess you could say it was the water, but you couldn’t drink the water,” said former Shadowood resident Heath Johnson, who started his family at Shadowood, as well.
Water troubles led the apartment complex’s management to issue office-style water coolers to tenants and regular water deliveries were made to the units.
Nonetheless, Johnson and his wife, Tricia, loved it there, he said.
“We moved from Los Angeles to Aspen and that was sort of our first introduction to living in Aspen. It was pretty magical,” Johnson said.
“We have a soft spot in our hearts for that place,” said Aspen restaurateur Craig Cordts-Pearce, who lived at Shadowood for a time with his wife, Samantha. “I just loved it there. That’s one of the best places I ever lived.”
Still, Cordts-Pearce said he understands why the owners want to do something with property.
The former Shadowood lots remain in the Resnicks’ hands. The development application identifies Bundy Properties LLC – the Resnicks’ property management business, based in Los Angeles – as the owner.