Hunt considers building lodge at Crystal Palace
The Aspen Times
Mark Hunt is considering redeveloping the Crystal Palace and an adjacent lot into a new lodge, the prominent developer’s land planner said Monday during an Aspen City Council meeting.
“Exactly what that application will be is not really yet decided,” planner Mitch Haas told the council. “We’ve thrown around a few ideas. The most current thought is a lodging development, but it’s not fully cooked at this point.”
He added that Hunt has no intention of requesting any land-use variances that would trigger a public vote for approval.
Haas made his comments during a council review of Hunt’s request to merge the Crystal Palace lot at 300 E. Hyman Ave. with 312 E. Hyman Ave. into a 9,000-square-foot lot. The council approved the application in a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Ann Mullins dissenting.
During the review, Mullins said large-lot developments have altered the feel of downtown, adding that if the applicant can maintain the lots separately in order to preserve character, she would support that.
According to Community Development Director Chris Bendon, the lot merger does not impact what proposals Hunt can bring forward, his development rights or allowable uses at the site. The merger allows for cleaner planning, which eliminates the need to work around lot-line issues, Bendon said.
Haas noted the concern about changing the pattern of a historic downtown landmark. The intention is to move forward with a tasteful design that respects the historic nature of the Crystal Palace, Haas said.
Councilman Adam Frisch asked how the Crystal Palace facade can be altered with any future development application. Bendon explained that issue will be front and center when the Historic Preservation Commission reviews any future applications.
“Many of our landmarks have been altered, some of them significantly,” Bendon said. “That is going to be front and center to their conversations on the levels of changes that can happen to the building and be in compliance with our design guidelines.”
Hunt said he recognizes that people see the building as a historic downtown building.
“That’s the way we would treat it,” Hunt told Frisch.
Because the property is located in the commercial core, no residential uses would be permitted with a redevelopment. Haas said Hunt is only considering commercial uses and will weigh three-story features for lodging use.
Mullins raised concerns about physical layout of the redevelopment as well as the inclusion of historic-preservation incentives.
“Too many developments have degraded that historic pattern by combining lots,” Mullins said. “Just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean it should continue to be done.”
Haas said the merger was a straightforward application without any hidden objectives.
“I know it’s hard to believe something in Aspen could be this straightforward and simple and that there isn’t something hidden underneath,” Haas said. “But this is one of those simple, straightforward requests so that we know where we’re going from here.”
No members of the public spoke during the public-comment portion of the hearing. The council’s 4-1 decision included a vote from outgoing Councilman Dwayne Romero, who relinquished his seat Monday to incoming Councilman Bert Myrin.
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