Lift One Lodge standing on its own

Carolyn Sackariason
Aspen, CO Colorado
Published: Illustration courtesy Bill Poss Architects

ASPEN ” Developers of a proposed 114,00-square-foot lodge at the base of Aspen Mountain are eager to present plans to Aspen City Council this fall ” despite the recent denial of a hotel and fractional-condo project across the street.

But last week’s denial of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain doesn’t concern developer Bob Daniel, who, along with Sunny Vann, represents Jim Chaffin, Jim Light and David Wilhelm in their quest to build the Lift One Lodge, which includes 32 lodge suites containing a total of 97 separate rental rooms.

“I have faith that the council looks at each individual application separately,” Daniel said. “These projects were created independently of each other.”

When Chaffin, Light and Wilhelm bought the Holland House in 2005 for $5.5 million, they realized that the land around it had enormous potential to become a vital ski-area base. So they bought the Skiers Chalet buildings and secured property the Aspen Skiing Co. owns around the base of Lift 1A.

“We wanted to take a more comprehensive tack on it, so we came up with a master plan for the area,” Daniel said, adding that planning involved the Skico, the city’s parks department, the Aspen Historical Society, the Historic Preservation Commission and residents. “I believe we have a thoughtful master plan, and we look forward to hearing from the City Council on it.”

Daniel said the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, which would have been located on the other side of South Aspen Street, wasn’t part of that master plan. And that could have been part of the reason developers were unable to convince the City Council to approve the project.

“The review of the lodge didn’t have the benefit of hearing or seeing our master plan … and we have a lot of the answers to the questions that were part of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain,” Daniel said. “The challenge is that there’s a lot of judgment without a master plan.”

Daniel pointed out that his project is much different than the Lodge at Aspen Mountain in that it’s smaller, would house its work force on site and isn’t seeking any variances in the land use code. The lodge also is a different product, a different concept and offers different community amenities.

The Lift One Lodge has received approval from the HPC and the Planning and Zoning Commission. It’s expected to go under City Council review for the first time in late November. The review process also could be delayed until early 2008.

In response to the question of whether he’s concerned about coming on the heels of months of review from the council on the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, Daniel said he thinks it’s favorable for him if there is a time lapse.

“I think it’s appropriate for a little separation,” he said. “The council has a lot on its plate.”

Developers plan to raze the Holland House to make way for the lodge. The Skiers Chalet buildings would be moved downhill and converted into a ski museum and employee housing.

Developers also plan to memorialize the history of skiing by refurbishing the original Lift 1 chairlift and creating a ski museum in Willoughby Park, a 51-by-115-foot strip of open space below the Skiers Chalet.

Chaffin, Light and Wilhelm plan to build, own and operate the lodge over the long term. In what they call a hybrid between fractional ownership and time shares, they plan to sell “membership interests” in the lodge.

Rooms will be available to the general public when the members aren’t using them.

The three-story building would occupy roughly the same footprint as the Holland House and Skico-owned land around the base of Lift 1A.

There also would be a public restaurant and an apres-ski deck at the base. There would be lockers, and spa and fitness facilities for lodge members and guests in the building. On the second floor would be another deck and restaurant, and a third deck overlooking the chairlift would be on the top floor. An underground parking garage would accommodate 115 spaces.

In 1991, Aspen voters supported the use of Willoughby Park for a ski museum, but the Aspen Historical Society has been unable to establish it. The Lift One Lodge developers plan to move the Skiers Chalet to the park and rehabilitate it for museum use. It would then be donated to the Historical Society. Developers also plan to refurbish the original Lift One towers and ticket booth.

Following tradition, people still ski from Aspen Mountain to points along South Aspen Street and down to Dean Street. Honoring that tradition, developers propose a “ski-through” lodge that would enable skiers to pass through the property, along the Lift 1 towers to the park, museum and parking garage.

The Lift One Lodge developers plan to make a number of improvements to steep and notoriously icy South Aspen Street. The road would be narrowed, with two traffic lanes, no street parking and wide sidewalks.

Lift One developers also suggest that a shuttle system connect the lodge with the Rubey Park bus depot and the walkway to the Gondola Plaza at Dean Street during the winter.

The historically designated Skiers Chalet Steakhouse would be renovated and converted into six one-bedroom affordable-housing units. Three one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units are planned for inclusion in the new Lift One Lodge.

There is no free-market residential component to the project ” the developers

decided to forgo their right to 27,000 square feet of space.