Public shows support for redevelopment of Aspen Mountain

The view from Dean Street on a redeveloped base of Aspen Mountain's west side.
Courtesy rendering

There is community support for the city of Aspen to financially contribute to the redevelopment of Aspen Mountain’s western portal, based on public comment during Monday’s review of the Lift One corridor proposal.

A half-dozen people spoke in front of Aspen City Council in favor of the overall project, which includes two lodge properties, a new chairlift, a ski museum, underground parking and public park space.

The Gorsuch Haus is proposed as an 81-room, 64,000-square-foot hotel and the Lift One Lodge is 107,000 square feet with 104 keys.

During last week’s public hearing, the majority of people also spoke in favor of the project, which is 18 months in the making and will go to a public vote in March.

Comments from longtime residents Monday night pointed to council to not get too bogged down in the details and to think of the future of the resort community.

Speaking on behalf of residents in the neighboring Lift One Condominiums, attorney Paul Taddune said his clients are supportive of the project.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, adding that the conversation when the gondola was being installed in the 1980s and the Little Nell Hotel was being approved was about getting it done — not fear that it wouldn’t. “It’s a little bit of a moonshot.”

Aspen native Cherie Oates, who rode the original Lift One when it opened in the late 1940s, said it’s time to get a dormant side of the mountain redeveloped.

“It’s kind of ghost-like and I’d like to see that going again,” she said.

Resident Charlie Bantis said if this project is not approved, there won’t be one coming along for a long time, which means World Cup ski racing won’t be coming back either since that side of the mountain has been the venue for decades.

“I’m not sure this town can go 10 or 15 years without World Cup,” he told council, adding he has watched previous redevelopment proposals go through the process and die at the end. “Be bold, be brave. Let’s do it this time.”

Council is being asked to pony up public dollars toward the redevelopment, and share costs with developers on certain aspects of the project.

Council members grappled Monday with how much, but most agreed that it should be a partner with the developers in some fashion.

The current cost-sharing proposal has the city paying $760,000 toward a new and improved Dean Street, which has a price tag of $1.2 million.

Dean Street is envisioned to be the access point for skier drop-off and pick-up, along with a parking garage that includes 50 public spaces.

Lift One Lodge would kick in $150,000 for the connection to the garage. Previously collected fees for the Dancing Bear development nearby would pay for the remaining balance of $290,000.

Lift One Lodge developers, Aaron and Michael Brown, also are asking that the city commit 80 percent of the estimated development fees for their project to the costs of the relocation and rehabilitation of the Skiers Chalet Lodge, where the new ski museum operated by the Aspen Historical Society would be. The building also will house skier services and ski patrol operations.

Applicants estimate that they will pay about $4.5 million in fees; 80 percent of that would calculate to $3.6 million.

The estimated cost to relocate the building and turn it over to the historical society and Aspen Skiing Co. for tenant-specific finishes is $5.6 million.

The cost-sharing agreement proposes that Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge would commit $1 million toward the building and museum.

Some council members balked at developers’ ask to waive a certain amount of affordable housing requirements based on incentives written into the land-use code, but other elected officials found it reasonable.

For Gorsuch Haus, it would be an $8 million savings. And for Lift One Lodge, it’s a break of almost $3.3 million.

The city’s land-use code allows incentives for developers to provide smaller lodge rooms in an effort to build the resort community’s bed base.

Council’s review Monday is the project’s third public review, with the final one scheduled Dec. 10. That’s when elected officials are expected to vote on an ordinance that could go to voters in the next election, scheduled for March 5.

However, there will be a month before council’s deadline to get a question on the ballot, which is Jan. 14, so more meetings could occur if elected officials need more time to consider the two land-use applications.