Jewish center on track | AspenTimes.com

Jewish center on track

Janet Urquhart

After a more than a year of discussions, the Chabad of Aspen and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission have agreed on a plan for an Aspen Jewish Community Center on Main Street.Six of the nine old cabins currently on the site – the biggest hurdle to the congregation’s development plan – will remain on the property and be incorporated into the center. Three others will be moved to an as-yet-undetermined off-site location. In addition, 10 relatively new cabins will be moved to make way for the Jewish Community Center, which will include classrooms, a sanctuary, auditorium, offices and other spaces.The approval process has been arduous; the project has been back to the drawing board several times.”We’re relieved,” said Rabbi Mendel Mintz, who leads the congregation. “It gives us, we feel, the facility we want to serve the community.”The project also satisfies the HPC, he noted. The commission voted 5-0 to approve the plan last week.The Chabad of Aspen purchased the Main Street property between Third and Fourth streets last year for $5.06 million. It currently operates as L’Auberge D’Aspen; the cabins are rented as lodge rooms.While the old cabins, which date back to the 1930s or ’40s, aren’t designated as historic structures, the property is within the Main Street Historic District, giving the HPC oversight of what happens there.With the site’s redevelopment, a historic designation will be placed on the entire property, ensuring the remaining cabins are preserved, said Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer.The planned Jewish Community Center will consist of two buildings connected by a transparent gallery space to the rear. The western portion will include the classrooms, offices and, on a second story, a sanctuary, according to the plans. The eastern, one-story building will be taken up primarily by an auditorium. The total, above-grade floor area of the new construction is about 16,500 square feet.The cabins, containing affordable housing or offices/lodging for congregation guests, will line Third Street and the alley to the rear in their existing locales. There will be basement space created below the cabins as well as the new center.The conceptual plans go next to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and then to the City Council, but those reviews are limited to a few issues, including parking; the project doesn’t meet the zoning code’s requirement for off-street parking. The intended uses of the site and the building dimensions meet code requirements, said Alan Richman, planning consultant for the project.Eight on-site parking spaces are planned off the alley.”We basically concluded you couldn’t preserve the historic buildings’ integrity and have the parking,” Richman said.Mintz said he would like to see construction begin next summer. In the meantime, L’Auberge D’Aspen continues to welcome guests.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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