Mark Hunt’s Cooper Avenue lodge concept advances to Aspen City Council
The Aspen Times
Developer Mark Hunt’s Cooper Avenue lodge concept will advance to the Aspen City Council for review after the Planning and Zoning Commission made a recommendation Tuesday that supports parking waivers but denies architectural design.
Dubbed Base1, the 37.5-foot-tall lodge would replace the Cooper Avenue structure home to Johnny McGuire’s with a building containing 44 lodge units at an average size of 173 square feet. The structure would be within the commercial lodge’s 40-foot height limit while also just within code at 17,000 square feet.
However, plans include a number of variance requests. Hunt is asking that the city waive his requirement to provide 25 off-street parking spaces, while also including a height variance, from 39 feet to 43 feet, to allow room for bathrooms. On affordable housing, Hunt has requested the city waive mitigation requirements for 1.97 full-time employees. Finally, Hunt is asking for about $40,000 in impact fee waivers.
For parking, Hunt is weighing a potential agreement with the city for about 25 to 50 spaces at the Rio Grande Parking Garage. Hunt also is in talks with Aspen Skiing Co. about employee spaces near Lift 1A and the neighboring Benedict Commons, an affordable-housing complex with about 20 leaseable spaces.
More than a dozen Benedict Commons residents appeared at Tuesday’s hearing, voicing concerns about design and the congestion such a parking arrangement would bring to their garage.
“I think you’ve poked a hornet’s nest with the Benedict Commons,” Commissioner Jason Elliott said.
Others residents, such as Bootsy Bellows owner Andrew Sandler, who appeared during the public comment portion, praised the lodge concept as a draw for Aspen’s next generation of visitors. Sandler said young tourists looking for affordable rooms would help support businesses like his.
In the end, the advisory board supported the recommendation in a 4-2 vote, with L.J. Erspamer and Jasmine Tygre dissenting and the latter stating that parking was her No. 1 issue.
“I can’t get my head around how this is not going to be a nightmare,” Tygre said. “I can’t possibly go any further with this until that’s resolved.”
Hunt’s team argued that the structure, which would replace the current U-shaped driveway at the site, will improve traffic flow.
During the commission’s first hearing on the application in December, Hunt walked away with a continuance in the face of a recommended denial, after board members listed deal-breaker concerns about parking, design and public-amenity space. Hunt has since added open-air, sidewalk windows and a walk-up coffee window at street level. He also has added a courtyard near the center of the structure.
Still, many of the same concerns over public-amenity space and design arose. Commissioner Stan Gibbs maintained that the proposed structure does not fit as a transitional building in the mixed-use zone district.
“I don’t believe this building complies,” he said. “This building is just too much for this location. The very first design objective of this area is to reflect a transition in character between the commercial core and the outlying residential neighborhoods.”
Hunt’s proposal to utilize the Rio Grande garage would be similar to a potential arrangement planned with the city for his other lodge concept Base2, a Main Street project that would contain 37 similar-sized rooms.
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Kevin Warner started his career with the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in 2001. Now he’s taking over the key position as Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.