Inn at Aspen seeks annexation into city
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Will the Inn at Aspen soon live up to its name?
The team hoping to raze and rebuild the condominium-hotel at the base of Buttermilk hopes so, and on Monday night they asked the Aspen City Council to consider annexing it into the city’s boundaries.
“Buttermilk is the first ski-related thing people see when they come into Aspen,” said Stan Clauson, the lead architect for the business. “And the Inn at Aspen is not carrying its share of the load; it is not the right gateway.”
The Inn at Aspen was originally constructed in 1969 as a Holiday Inn. It was converted to a condo-hotel in 1984, but has been eyed for redevelopment for years, according to Clauson and his associates.
“It is broken, but we can fix it,” said Steve Seyffert, speaking on behalf of the Inn at Aspen condominium owners. “The real solution is to bring in bulldozers, tear it down and reconstruct it.”
Seyffert said problems with the current lodge are so dramatic – including small lodge rooms, low ceilings, subpar conference facilities, poor views, inefficient HVAC units and outdated appointments, among other concerns – that the only real choice is to redevelop the Inn at Aspen from the ground up.
The various condo owners do not, however, have the capital to fund such a project and are looking to bring a development company on board. They are hoping a preannexation agreement with the city, as well as some development parameters, will help entice a backer.
While all four council members present at Monday’s work session understood the logic in seeking annexation for development purposes – and agreed to continue talks about folding the 9-acre property into the city of Aspen – they made it clear there were many hurdles before they would even consider signing a preannexation agreement.
Among the council’s concerns were how the property would be zoned; traffic impacts; real estate transfer taxes associated with old owners buying into new units; and how to guarantee midpriced lodging.
Mayor Mick Ireland even questioned whether – with an average occupancy rate of 50 percent – the Inn at Aspen was truly in need of redevelopment.
“That’s a lot of midpriced hot beds filling a niche nobody else seems to be filling,” he said.
But the main objection seemed to be with the proposed size and scale of a redeveloped Inn at Aspen. In an outline for a preannexation agreement presented at Monday’s meeting, the new lodge would be dramatically larger than what exists now, and would rise much higher.
“I worry we do not have the same vision for this area, and I am not willing to go there,” said Councilman Torre, after Clauson pointed to a spot about halfway up the Buttermilk halfpipe where the view of the mountain would be blocked by the hotel. “People are drawn to the halfpipe; it is the real amenity of that ski hill. That is the thing they identify with Aspen.”
Regardless, the council agreed to continue talks on annexation in an effort to avoid the “fiscal loser” they encountered with similar redevelopment proposals, such as Aspen Highlands Village. In that case, the redevelopment process, approvals and entitlements went through the Pitkin County commissioners before the property was annexed into the city.
“I know from first-hand experience on these other projects that this does not produce optimal results,” said Councilman Dwayne Romero. “We can do better with this.”
The council directed city staffers to work with the Inn at Aspen team to hone in on preannexation expectations and to schedule a follow-up work session.
X Games is back for its 22nd consecutive year at Buttermilk Ski Area starting Friday, with many of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders set to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle, big air and knucklehuck over three days.