Lift One corridor at base of Aspen Mountain gaining speed
The first review of a reimagined west portal to Aspen Mountain received positive feedback from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday.
A new site plan for the Lift One corridor has emerged as a result of consensus from landowners at the base of the mountain to bring a new chairlift to Dean Street.
P&Z got its first glimpse of the corridor and specifically the Lift One Lodge, which has approvals stemming from 2011. But developers Michael and Aaron Brown will have to submit a new land-use application that responds to the site plan.
P&Z will be tasked with making a recommendation to Aspen City Council on whatever amendments are made to Lift One Lodge.
But before they finalize a land-use application for their property, the Browns and their project team wanted general feedback from P&Z about whether they are headed in the right direction.
And the answer was a resounding “yes,” with a few concerns about traffic, impacts to the neighborhood and keeping historic elements of the original Lift One chairlift intact on the site.
“This is head and shoulders above anything we’ve seen in the past,” P&Z member Spencer McKnight said. “I’m extremely pleased with this. It’s good for town and I’m liking all of it.”
The Browns propose to move the Skiers Chalet Steakhouse farther down the hill and either turn it into affordable housing or a restaurant.
The Skiers Chalet would move to Willoughby Park and be turned into an Aspen Historical Society museum. It also would serve as a skier services building.
The city, Aspen Skiing Co., the historical society, the Browns and the developers behind the proposed Gorsuch Haus are working together to make sure the site plan is the best fit for the ski corridor.
It’s necessitated by the decision last month by Aspen City Council and three other landowners at the base of the mountain to bring a new chairlift down to Dean Street.
The groups are presenting the site plan — and the issues that come with it — to review bodies this week. The Historic Preservation Commission will take a look at it today and the city’s open space board will consider it Thursday.
Once the project teams get all of the boards’ feedback, the developers will submit land-use applications for their respective projects.
Because of issues related to potential development, Aspen voters will make the final decision on the corridor in a special election that’s been slated for February.
Prior to that, however, the review bodies and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority will make recommendations about specific aspects of the entire project to City Council.
The new site plan incorporates elements that are a nod to the origins of skiing in Aspen, but put some of the original pieces of Lift One chairlift at risk.
As proposed, the new Lift 1A terminal would be placed in front of the historic bull wheel from the 1949 chairlift, which was the longest in the world when it opened.
That would require losing some or all of the remaining lift towers, which is not favored by the city’s historic preservation officer, Amy Simon, or the HPC itself.
HPC has purview over three historic resources on the site — Skiers Chalet Steakhouse, Skiers Chalet Lodge and Lift One — as well as Willoughby Park as a whole, Simon said.
Tonight, the HPC will be asked to weigh in on impacts and its priorities for the corridor.
“Plans for the two historic structures appear to be relatively consistent with what was approved 10 years ago,” Simon wrote in an email to The Aspen Times on Tuesday. “Impacts on the historic lift are more significant now. … This is a unique situation and if the project is to proceed, there will have to be some degree of compromise. We expect that some of HPC’s comments will ultimately be recommendations and that council will make many of the formal decisions.”
P&Z member Ruth Carver said barring a few tweaks in the site plan, she’s in favor of what’s been proposed thus far.
“I think it’s about as good as it’s going to get,” she said.
It’s anticipated that a land-use application will be submitted by Lift One Lodge in the coming weeks, with a recommendation by P&Z to council in August.
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The National Weather Service is predicting a La Nina weather pattern to continue through this winter, but don’t go turning in your ski pass just yet.