Isis talk turns toward eatery | AspenTimes.com
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Isis talk turns toward eatery

ASPEN The Isis Group LLC still doesn’t have a tenant for the retail side of the theater, and talk has turned to the potential for a restaurant in the space.John Olson, a minor partner in the Isis Group, told Aspen’s City Council on Monday night that the group was having trouble securing a retail tenant, so the restaurant scenario “could end up becoming a possibility, because it’s not renting right now.”Nothing is set in stone, but as Aspen’s City Council voted on a change in use for the theater building to allow retail on one side, it considered the ramifications if the retail side were to become a restaurant.The ordinance the council passed Monday does not permit a restaurant, but it does allow the City Council to vote to allow one in the future.The restaurant issue became a sticking point because the Isis Group must build affordable housing for any new employees the development generates or else pay cash in lieu of building housing. The amount of housing to be built, or the fee paid in lieu, changes depending on the use. Restaurants generally generate more employees than retail stores, so the mitigation would be higher.Developments usually go through a special growth-management review process to determine exactly how many employees to mitigate for. The Isis change-in-use ordinance stipulates that if the council approves a restaurant in the future, the growth management review will be administrative – the Community Development department would determine the amount of affordable housing required, not a review board.But Councilwoman Jasmine Tygre was adamant the language be clear on which decisions are made by whom. She was concerned that a future council – or future owners – would interpret the ordinance as saying approval for a restaurant was administrative, not the council’s decision.”Let’s say something happens – we all get hit by a train,” she said. “Somebody’s going to try to interpret it without [the city attorney] here to explain.”Tygre said she’s seen one board’s decisions reinterpreted by later boards because the language didn’t accurately reflect the intent of the discussions.”You go back to approvals from the ’70s, ’80s, early ’90s, and I was there,” she said. “I know what was intended, but that’s not what it says.” Councilman Jack Johnson agreed.”I want in the future for this to be crystal clear,” he said.Affordable housing mitigation is based partly on square footage and partly on number of employees created by the new development. Under the current formula, if the Isis Group builds a mezzanine level on the retail side and pays cash in lieu of on-site affordable housing, the fee would be roughly $195,000. That number could go down if the Isis Group does not build a mezzanine. The fee could go up if the council votes to allow a restaurant in the space in the future.The Isis Group hopes to begin renovating the building as soon as possible to make sure the theater is open in time for summer blockbusters. Olson said that means the theater side must be open in five and a half to six weeks (in time for the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, he said). Construction on the retail side might take a little longer. Either way, Aspenites can expect to see a covered walkway in front of the building in the immediate future as renovation gets under way.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com


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