Lodge proposal in Aspen goes for more free-market units

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
The Boomerang Lodge on Hopkins Avenue in Aspen has been empty for more than a decade. A new ownership group wants to redevelop it into lodge rooms and condos.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

The group proposing to redevelop the old Boomerang Lodge is asking Aspen City Council tonight to approve a plan that has changed significantly from last year’s review.

Developers have lopped off one floor of the building, cut the lodge rooms down to 18 from 23 and reduced the overall size by 10,000 square feet. The new building is proposed to be just over 36,000 square feet, and 38 feet at its highest point.

But what’s been added is the number of suites and their square footage. Seven are proposed to be between 1,498 and 1,732 square feet. They would comprise 66 percent of the lodge rooms available.

In their memo to council, city planners describe that as a “very dramatic” change in the style of room being proposed — going from a standard single-room design to predominately suites.

“If you have less stuff, you have to make the stuff worth more.”Chris Bendon, land use consultant

“Although staff supports lodge development, it is important that the property operate as a lodge and that the suites, which are proposed to be condominiumized, do not default into a different use through the ownership or management of the units,” the memo reads.

Developers plan to remove the conference room and make lodge amenity spaces, like the lobby, smaller. Limiting the space available to guests also is a concern of city staff.

The plan also includes four free-market units ranging in size from 1,645 square feet to just over 3,000 square feet.

Despite concerns, staff believe the proposal is moving in the right direction but are recommending that developers reduce the size of the suites and free-market units, and incorporate more traditional lodge rooms.

The developers now are considering having the 18 lodge units average 969 square feet, compared with 812 square feet in the previous version pitched to City Council. The key count is lowered from 47 to 35, and those lock-off units are smaller than 500 square feet. There also would be a 32-space underground parking garage and two affordable housing units.

Chris Bendon, principal of the Aspen planning firm BendonAdams LLC, which represents the developers, said his clients are trying their best to respond to council’s direction from last fall’s meeting.

But in order to reduce the mass and scale of the building, things have to fall off if it’s going to be economically viable and meet the demands of the market.

“If you have less stuff, you have to make the stuff worth more,” Bendon said. “We are trying to balance it all.”

The would-be developers are Marshall Tycher and Eric Witmondt, principals of ME Aspen Ventures One LLC. They have the dilapidated building under contract to buy from Aspen FSP ABR LLC, which bought the land and the 1949-built lodge for $13.5 million in 2005.

Located on the 500 block of West Hopkins Avenue, the property has gone through a string of proposed development scenarios, as well as a lawsuit that thwarted an affordable-housing development, since 2006.

Staff is recommending that council continue its review of the land-use application to a later date so that changes can be made.

Bendon said in light of the pending sale and quelling the concerns of neighbors, he and his clients want a decision sooner rather than later.

“From our standpoint, we put forward a project that is responsive to the neighbors and council,” he said. “So we would love a vote or as much clarity as possible.”


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