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Lodge sits empty in prime location

Janet Urquhart

On a prime piece of downtown real estate, a stone’s throw from one of Aspen’s most luxurious hotels, a ski lodge sits locked and vacant.

Orange fencing blocks the entrance. Duct tape holds a broken windowpane together. “No trespassing” and “keep out” signs are posted in the windows. Inside, dust collects on a half-done remodeling project, and construction equipment litters the floors.

In a town desperate for both additional lodging and employee housing, the former Aspen Manor languishes, unused for either purpose.

“It’s a shame,” said Dale Paas, owner of the Limelight Lodge next door. “It’s sitting there vacant. It would be great if it was put to a useful purpose. It’s such a prime location.”

The old lodge shares the corner of Monarch Street and Durant Avenue with the Chart House, a popular restaurant, and the ritzy St. Regis hotel. It’s within walking distance of Lift 1-A on Aspen Mountain.

“My gosh, to have a quarter of a block. I’d like to own that in downtown Aspen,” said Paas. “We definitely wanted to buy it.”

But the price, Paas said, put use of the property for expansion of the Limelight out of his reach.

Instead, the lodge was purchased by Florida-based MSE Aspen Holdings Ltd. in April 1997 for $2.3 million. The seller was Aspen Manor Lodge Ltd.

Michael S. Egan, president of MSE Aspen Holdings, has an unpublished telephone number in Florida and could not be reached for comment.

But Aspen architect David Brown of Stryker-Brown Architects said his client has not forgotten about the property.

Renovation of the lodge, Brown said, is simply on a back burner for now.

“The owner is a very busy person. He has been focused on his business,” Brown said.

MSE has already acquired the city approvals necessary for a planned renovation of the 23-room lodge, which was built in 1964, according to city records.

“The original plan was to renovate it and rebuild it as a lodge – to make it essentially a very nice bed and breakfast,” Brown said.

The number of rooms was to be reduced to 10 to 13 larger, suite-like units. The addition of a restaurant and bar was also planned, he said.

Work on the remodeling began but was never finished. A peek in the windows reveals construction equipment scattered about and the skeletal framing for walls within the lodge units.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a permit for asbestos abatement work in the building for two months in the summer of 1997.

While some lodges in town have converted to use as affordable housing, either formally or as a temporary arrangement, no discussion of using Aspen Manor as a housing complex has taken place, according to several housing officials.

“I’m not aware of the housing board ever having looked at it,” said Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards, who served on the board at the time the lodge was sold. “My recollection is, it was pretty pricey, given its location.”

Richards said she does recall discussing interim use of the lodge as seasonal housing with Brown. She said he expressed fear that using the lodge for housing would complicate the owner’s eventual plans for the property.

“It’s clearly a waste,” said Richards, “but we can’t force action or redevelopment to occur.”


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