Lift One too big, out of character for Aspen |

Lift One too big, out of character for Aspen

The City Council on Wednesday will decide the fate of the biggest development Aspen has seen in decades.

We expect the City Council chambers to be crowded mostly with people who support the Life One Master Plan.

City Council members will hear persuasive arguments from developers, officials with the Aspen Skiing Co., ski bums, local dignitaries and others. They will passionately argue that this part of town is dilapidated and needs a boost. They will maintain that Aspen needs more hotel beds. They will argue that two hotels, some restaurants and other amenities sure beat the erection of a cluster of condominiums instead.

Their enthusiasm will be genuine, their arguments compelling.

Which will make it even more difficult for City Council members to do the right thing. And the right thing is to reject this proposal.

Members of this newspaper’s editorial board do not see completely eye to eye on this project. At least one member feels that something needs to be done on South Aspen Street, and that the task force which studied and debated the proposed plan for six months knows as well as anybody what’s best for this once-vibrant, now-quiet part of Aspen.

But in the end, the majority of editorial board members thought this project, in its current form, is too massive and ostentatious for Aspen.

For starters, the master plan proposes 300,000 square feet of residential and commercial space along South Aspen Street. That’s nearly one-third the size of Base Village in Snowmass.

The developers, Centurion Partners and Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge Aspen LLC, are individually proposing two hotels, affordable housing, restaurants, retail space and public amenities on an 8-acre site in what’s known as the Lift One neighborhood. The city of Aspen and the Aspen Skiing Co. also are landowners on the site.

The developers are willing to make a number of concessions to get the plan approved, including a surface chairlift from Dean Street, affordable ski lockers, and a brew pub and restaurant. Supporters claim the development is the best it can be because of these public benefits, and the hotels will add to Aspen’s much-needed bed base.

But based on its size and grandiosity alone, we cannot support this project. And it doesn’t help that the lodging contemplated for the site is all high-end, exclusively for the super-rich. Despite its amenities, this project does more for Aspen the country club than it does for Aspen the ski town.

We also would be baffled if this council, which has denied much smaller proposals ” such as the Wienerstube project, the Cooper Street redevelopment, and the Bidwell building because they were too large and out of character ” would give the green light to the Lift One Master Plan.

Approving this project would not only be out of character for Aspen, it would be out of character for the council, which voters elected to make tough decisions like this one. We urge City Council to vote against the Lift One Master Plan, for the greater good of Aspen in the present, and in the future.

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