Neighborhood character matters
There are many ways the proposed Wienerstube development could meet the requirements of the Aspen Area Community Plan, if the developers choose.
At the previous meetings, City Council asked the developers to come back with building of smaller scale and mass. The developers’ present iteration lowered the massive box only a few feet in some places, but it does little to change the “out-of-character” feel of the building. The developers have made few changes to make the building fit in with the neighborhood context. In addition, the developers are asking council to accept money “in lieu” of employee housing in order to maintain the massive and profitable size of their project.
With the developers’ small reduction of a couple feet in a few places, the proposed Wienerstube building still is 42 feet high. Part of the city code states: “Decisions regarding scale, massing, form, materials, texture and color must first be measured by context. Contextual appropriateness transcends style alone.” By “contextual appropriateness” that means, does it fit into the neighborhood?
The buildings in this neighborhood and specifically this block include patios, setbacks, open spaces, alcoves, etc. The buildings that are over one or two stories include large setbacks, oversized patios in the front and lawn area. An example of this the Hanna Dustin building which is three stories, but setback with open space and patio and is 30 feet high at the setback point. Across the adjacent alley, Chateau Aspen is three stories but only 28 feet high. There is not one building on the entire block of Hyman that exceeds 28 feet.
In order to make this project meet the goals of the Aspen Area Community plan, I would suggest the following:
Drop the ground level to a level below ground, so the first floor could become the ground;
The second floor could become the first and;
The third floor could become the second floor;
Set the top floor penthouse on the second floor.
Council offered to eliminate one level of parking so this lower design could be accomplished. By reducing the mass and scale of the building into several smaller scaled buildings, the developers could reduce the affordable commercial, and required employee housing. By reducing the height of the floor in the building, the developer also can reduce its heat consumption and BTU’s almost by one half.
The Aspen Area Community Plan states that all structures are “to maintain and enhance the special character of our community.” That special character of this community is its small scale, its open spaces, out door patios and public gathering places where there are trees and where sunlight can shine down without casting large shadows on pedestrian walkways from massive buildings. It is where one can enjoy and still see the surrounding mountains and feel like one is in a ski town and not in an urban renewal development of a big city. This is the character of Aspen and what sets us apart from other ski towns.
While new restaurants enter the Aspen scene, there are several spaces that will remain empty this winter. Meanwhile, the retail market remains extremely hot.