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Lift One pitch includes a ski museum for Aspen

Janet Urquhart
An artist's rendering shows the plan for the base of the historic Lift One, with the relocated Skier's Chalet Steak House building, which would house a ski museum the Aspen Historical Society would operate. (Courtesy Poss Architecture + Planning)
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Two defunct lodging properties at the base of Lift 1A have been consolidated under the sole ownership of investors who have proposed refurbishing the historic base of Lift One and converting a former Skier’s Chalet building into a ski museum.Yet to come is an anticipated redevelopment proposal for the former Holland House and the Skier’s Chalet properties. That application will be filed in the coming weeks, according to project spokesman Bob Daniel, representing Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge-Aspen LLC.The group has submitted plans to the city to rehabilitate Willoughby Park, Lift One Park and former Skier’s Chalet Steak House parcels, including the construction of an underground parking garage that would require the temporary relocation of Lift One, the first chairlift that served Aspen Mountain. What remains of the lift – its lower terminus and a few towers – would return to its historic location, according to the plan.The proposal also includes narrowing of South Aspen Street and installation of a snowmelt system beneath the steep street.The partnership of David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light acquired the Holland House ski lodge on South Aspen Street last fall, and recently acquired the two neighboring properties that make up the Skier’s Chalet, confirmed developer Greg Hills, representing 710 S. Aspen LLC. Hills’ group finalized its purchase of the two chalet buildings early this year but was then approached by the Holland House buyers, he said.

“They, for one, offered us a price that’s hard to turn down,” Hills said. “It fit really well for them strategically.”The Holland House investors purchased all the shares in 710 S. Aspen LLC to acquire the Skier’s Chalet, Hills said, and the sale has not been recorded as a property transaction with the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder. Hills’ group spent about $5 million to buy the chalet buildings; he declined to divulge the sale price.Though Hills had pursued initial plans to redevelop the Skier’s Chalet himself, he said he sensed a shift in sentiment toward redevelopment, which was a factor in the decision to sell the Chalet parcels. Public outcry over the pace of redevelopment has since intensified.”I think we got a little nervous about what might happen,” he said. “They gave us quite a bit of money, so we thought we’d move on.”Daniel declined to discuss what the new owners of the properties envision for the two lodging parcels, but the project that has been proposed includes roughly 50 parking spaces in an underground facility to replace surface parking that currently serves Willoughby Park, plus enough to serve a ski museum.

The Skier’s Chalet lodge building on Gilbert Street would be relocated to Willoughby Park – at the corner of Dean and South Aspen streets – for use as a museum the Aspen Historical Society would operate. An existing building at the park, which serves the Aspen United Soccer Club, would be demolished.The historical society has long envisioned a ski museum at the Lift One site, and the group’s executive director, Georgia Hanson, said the proposal would be a dream come true for the organization if the project goes forward. It has yet to see its first city review.”It really isn’t appropriate for me to comment on this application before any of the decision makers have even considered it. The approval process is political and complicated and there is a very long way to go,” Hanson said. “That said, the proposed museum is a priceless gift to the community in a location supported by the community. If the plan can weave its way through the approval process intact, I would call it a dream come true for all of us.”The park could also accommodate the Deep Powder lodge cabins, which are currently part of the Limelite Lodge and were due for demolition as part of the Limelite’s redevelopment, the application notes. The city has expressed a desire to see the two cabins moved and preserved.The former Steak House building, which is historic and can’t be demolished, would be refurbished for use as employee housing.

Lift One Park contains part of the alignment of the old Lift One as it rises up from Willoughby Park toward the mountain. The goal is to integrate it the two parks to create a continuous, historic park along the lift line, according to the application. Currently, the parks are split by alley-like Gilbert street and a small, one-story addition to the steakhouse dining room, plus an outdoor patio. The addition is not historic and would be removed.Both parks are city property, but the city has given the developers permission to incorporate them into their proposal, according to a document filed with the application.The Holland House is not historic and can be demolished. Behind the Holland House, to the east, is Lift One Park, and beyond that is the Skier’s Chalet lodge parcel, which would be vacated with the relocation of the lodge building to Willoughby Park.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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