It’s round two for Aspen Club redevelopment
The owner of the Aspen Club plans to submit in the next two weeks a development application that includes building 19 fractional townhomes and transforming the club into a destination holistic health facility.The proposal is similar to the one that Michael Fox submitted and subsequently withdrew in 2006 because of a lack of support from the Aspen City Council and the club’s neighbors.Fox said he has tweaked the proposal in many ways, with a focus on environmental sustainability and input from the club’s neighbors.Called “Aspen Club Living,” the plan has been accepted into a new pilot program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) is a third-party reviewed rating system that integrates the principles of smart growth, new urbanism and green building into the first national standard for neighborhood design.”We will be the first place in the country where sustainable development merges with holistic health and Aspen is the best place to do it,” Fox said.One significant change from the old proposal is the elimination of a parking garage underneath the club. Instead, several auto disincentives will be employed, including paid parking at the club’s 95-space lot. When the proposal was going through the review process two years ago, neighbors came out in full force against the project. They formed an opposition group, hired an attorney and distributed thousands of glossy fliers campaigning against the project.They argued the city had no justification for approving an overlay to the club’s underlying residential zoning and said it would create more traffic on Ute Avenue.Fox’s new plan claims to lessen traffic on Ute Avenue and Crystal Lake Road through eco shuttles, stricter employee commuting requirements, and car- and bike-share programs. Fox plans to buy electric or air-powered vehicles for use by guests and employees coming into town.For the past year, Fox said he has been talking with residents who live near the club, hearing their concerns and creating a development they can live with. In his first attempt, Fox didn’t do that.”I did a lousy job listening to the neighbors,” he said. “The town wasn’t ready for it and we hadn’t thought it through.”The number of fractional units on site hasn’t changed, however. The proposal still calls for 13 townhome units where the club’s tennis courts are currently located, and six other timeshare lodge units above the existing club building. Fox estimates the units would go for between $150,000 and $400,000 for two-week blocks throughout the year. The employee housing component would consist of 12 two-bedroom units – about 900 square feet each – located behind the club. “I had an epiphany about six months ago and decided to take out the parking garage and replace it with affordable housing,” Fox said.In total, the development footprint would be 40,000 square feet and would cost about $20 million to build. Another $7 million will go into remodeling the club, which would include new locker rooms, an outdoor pool and fitness areas, as well as new programs and activities. The project would be financed by investors and cash flow from the club’s operations, Fox said.Fox’s financial plan predicts that the owners of the residences will help fund the club’s operations. Through homeowner fees and weekly participants in new health programs, the revenue will offset the basic costs of running the club, Fox said.”We envision Aspen Club Living as a place where families will come annually for a healthy retreat,” Fox wrote in a letter to city officials. “These families will stay in the same units for the same weeks as 18 other families every year.”When the units aren’t being used by owners they will be available for groups, families and single travelers who participate in special one- and two-week healthy lifestyle programs.Those programs focus on a wide array of health issues: stress and weight management, diabetes, integrative medicine and aging, as well as retreats, workshops and seminars. Weeklong programs include yoga, Pilates, meditation, cancer survival, biking, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering and more.”Health has changed a lot,” Fox said. “We want to integrate medical and alternative health and define health for the 21st century.”Fox said the concept is designed around other world-class health and spa facilities like Canyon Ranch in Arizona and the Duke Center for Living in North Carolina.The difference, however, is that Aspen Club Living would be an environmentally sustainable neighborhood, Fox said. The LEED-ND program focuses on design and construction elements that bring buildings together and relate the neighborhood to its larger landscape through environmentally friendly construction and technology, alternative transportation and its linkage to trails.The Aspen Club sits on 5 acres, and is able to utilize geothermal fields for heating and cooling the facility through ground source heat pumps and geothermal exchange. It also has an acre of rooftop space for solar panels that could generate a good portion of the club’s electric needs. Fox also proposes to reduce energy consumption with more efficient insulation, green roofs, better HVAC systems, and using pools for thermal storage and heat exchange.”We are dealing with two crisises today – health and the environment,” Fox said. “This project addresses health and sustainability, that’s the exciting part.”
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