‘Little Snell’ project in Basalt passes first important hurdle | AspenTimes.com

‘Little Snell’ project in Basalt passes first important hurdle

As Aspen struggles to refine its historic-preservation program, Basalt has apparently found one that works.

The town planning staff and its planning commission have recommended approval for the first project to test new historic-preservation guidelines.

The groundbreaking project would add 11,500 square feet of new development to the 104-year-old building on Midland Avenue that houses Java Joes.

Building owner Candace Resnick’s proposal preserves the 925-square-foot original building. In return, she can take advantage of incentives intended to make development easier on the remainder of her property.

The Town Council approved regulations last year to preserve 11 historic structures and three ruins that are at least 75 years old. Most of the buildings are in the downtown core.

Town officials compromised on regulations. They are designed to preserve the historic sites without prohibiting restoration and development of property around them. To encourage redevelopment – rather than just let old buildings decay – the town’s guidelines ease parking and employee-housing regulations and lessen some fees.

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Resnick said her work with town officials has been a cooperative and rewarding experience that shows historic preservation can work.

“[Town planner] Glenn Hartmann and I have sort of nursed this project along for a long time,” Resnick said.

She incorporated design changes suggested by town officials into her project, and town officials have stuck to their word on incentives for the developer.

Resnick noted that she and her architect, Tim Hagman of Basalt, were asked in one planning-commission meeting to consider changing the entrance to the project to highlight the historic structure. That reinforced an instinct she had and spurred her to make the change.

“If you can work with them and incorporate ideas, it makes the process go smoother and creates a better project,” Resnick said.

Resnick’s addition will wrap around the original building and climb the hillside behind it. The three-story structure will provide about 2,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, about 2,500 square feet of office space on the second floor and nearly 2,800 square feet of residential space on the top floor.

The planning commission unanimously recommended approval Tuesday night. Multiple conditions were placed on the project. For example, the planning commission urged use of varied building materials “to help create different character for the four different building components and further reduce the mass of the building.”

Resnick is tentatively calling her project “The Little Snell.” The building was built in 1898 by Colorado Midland Railroad worker Frank Snell, according to Resnick’s research. He decided to use brick after a fire decimated the town.

The Little Snell is also a play on words with the famous mining claim, ski run and hotel in Aspen.

Resnick’s project is scheduled to be reviewed by the Basalt Town Council March 26. The planning-commission vote is strictly advisory – and sometimes doesn’t carry weight with the council.

For example, Frieda Wallison’s altered Riverwalk proposal was approved by the planning commission but rejected by the council. She was forced to stick with original approvals that she felt were inferior to her plan.

Resnick hopes to earn approvals for The Little Snell in time to start construction this spring.

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