MAA housing wins city OK
Several members of the public in a packed council chambers pleaded with city officials to move forward on the 200-bed project at Burlingame Ranch, citing the critical need for seasonal housing to serve the resort. The council responded with a 4-1 vote on first reading to approve the project, which will house Aspen Music Festival and School students during the summer and resort workers during the ski season.The city and Music Associates of Aspen are partners in the project.Construction of the project could begin as early as next week, following scheduled council action on second reading next Monday.The project is slated for the city-owned Burlingame property, located between the Maroon Creek Club and Aspen Airport Business Center.The site had plenty of detractors on the city Planning and Zoning Commission, which voted 5-2 to recommend rejection of the proposal.But the bulk of public comment heard last night came down solidly in favor of the project. The MAA, especially, is anxious to get the housing built, as it is slated to lose housing for music students at the Grand Aspen Hotel next summer.”I think there’s a critical need [for seasonal housing] wherever we can find it,” said Molly Campbell, general manager of The Gant condominiums. “I truly believe the community needs 200 winter beds.”Several business owners described the severely overcrowded living conditions their seasonal employees face. One business owner said she knew of five or six people residing in a one-bedroom apartment and another related a tale of 10 people squeezed into a two-bedroom unit.Pitkin County P&Z member Charlie Tarver appealed to council members to jump on the opportunity, rather than wait for a “perfect” project that “may or may not come along.”Responding to the city P&Z’s criticism that the project’s location is poor in terms of transit and noise – the site is near Highway 82 and the Aspen airport – MAA representatives conceded that the site is not “ideal, but the best we could find.””The MAA never said it was a perfect location. What we’ve always said was that it’s a very acceptable location – that with good planning, good design we can make a good project. I think we’ve accomplished that,” said Jim Curtis, project manager for the MAA.Four of the five council members supported the plan’s designs, including its architecture, parking, and general layout.Councilman Terry Paulson voted to deny final approval, objecting primarily to the number of two-story buildings in the design. Fewer, three-story buildings would be more environmentally sound in terms of energy conservation and more efficient in terms of construction, he said.Mayor Rachel Richards disagreed. “To me, a three-story entrance to town would be like Vail,” she said.
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City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.