Little Annie’s won’t be razed

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Aspen Times fileThe Benton Building, left, and Little Annie's building next to it will be considered for inclusion on Aspen's list of historic properties, protecting them from demolition.

ASPEN – It appears as though the building that houses Little Annie’s restaurant on Hyman Avenue will be saved from the threat of demolition.

At Monday’s Aspen City Council meeting, community development director Chris Bendon said a representative of the property owner has asked for both the Little Annie’s structure and the Benton Building next door to be considered for inclusion on the city’s historic properties list.

“The applicant will be applying to Aspen Modern, the program that replaced Ordinance 30 and Ordinance 48 in the section of the Historic Preservation code [that addresses] post-World War II buildings,” Bendon said.

He said the owner, Aspen Core Ventures LLC, plans to submit a new development plan this month that will preserve the Little Annie’s building with only slight modifications. The Benton Building, once a studio occupied by the artist Tom Benton, would be preserved and rehabilitated “back to its original design,” Bendon said.

But the new plans likely still will include commercial redevelopment of the nearby corner parking lot, which Aspen Core Ventures also owns, in a manner similar to an existing proposal, he added.

Aspen Ventures LLC previously had proposed a major redevelopment for the property in the 500 block of Hyman, and sought to have both buildings demolished. In September, the city Historic Preservation Commission gave its blessing to the razing of the Little Annie’s structure, but not the Benton Building.

Following that decision – and public outcry over the proposed destruction of the building that houses the eatery – the City Council officially called up the issue for review and discussed it on Nov. 2. That meeting was continued to Nov. 28 so that the council could review minutes from September’s HPC meeting in order to determine whether the commission had considered all criteria in making its decision.

Now that meeting won’t be necessary, Bendon said.

“The [new] application should be coming in soon,” he said. A special HPC meeting is tentatively set for Dec. 7 to consider the revised application, Bendon said.

Council members had little comment during the meeting on the new development in the controversy surrounding the Little Annie’s and Benton buildings.

“I think it’s great news,” said Councilman Adam Frisch.

Amy Guthrie, city historic preservation officer, said Nikos Hecht, managing partner of Aspen Core Ventures, contacted the Community Development Department shortly after the council’s Nov. 2 meeting “to offer to discuss voluntary [historic] designation as a better solution to the situation.”

By including the buildings on the city’s historic structures list, they would be subject to stricter development regulations, Guthrie said. Both buildings are within the city’s Commercial Core Historic District.

“He’s offered to invest the money that’s needed to restore the Benton Building back to what it originally looked like, based on photographs of the outside,” she said.

Under future, but unspecified, plans, the restaurant would remain; the Benton Building, which is vacant now, would be modified and leased out; and the corner lot would become the site of new mixed-use commercial building.

The HPC will review whether the two existing buildings qualify for Aspen Modern program, Guthrie said.

“They haven’t reviewed that yet,” she said. “What they reviewed was whether taking them down met the demolition criteria, and they found that Benton didn’t but that Little Annie’s arguably would.”

The special meeting might or might not take place Dec. 7: “We’re asking the HPC to fit it into their schedule,” Guthrie said.

The council voted 4-0 to approve the Lift One Lodge development at the base of Aspen Mountain.

• The council approved the city’s 2012 budget with little fanfare. Operations expenditures will total $49.9 million, a 5.2 increase over the 2011 budget. Capital outlays are estimated to be $21.8 million, a 57.9 percent increase compared with the current fiscal year. Burlingame’s second phase, the Galena Plaza redevelopment, Rio Grande Park improvements and the Castle Creek hydroelectric plant project are included in the 2012 capital spending plans.

• Council members approved introductory ordinances for new rules on vacation rental properties, a 5 percent increase in rates charged to city water utility customers and an increase in city electricity rates for large commercial users. Public hearings on those ordinances are planned for meetings before the year’s end.