New Hotel Jerome owners starting Cortina renovation |

New Hotel Jerome owners starting Cortina renovation

Rustin Gudim/The Aspen TimesThe new owners of the Hotel Jerome have started renovations to their employee housing, at the old Cortina Lodge on Main Street. All rooms are being gutted and remodeled.

ASPEN – The latest owners of the Hotel Jerome have taken a small first step in implementing a multimillion-dollar renovation plan connected to Aspen’s historic landmark.

Jerome Ventures LLC received a building permit Friday from the city of Aspen to undertake an extensive renovation of the Cortina Lodge, a 1950s motor lodge that was converted decades ago into the Hotel Jerome’s employee housing.

Crews removed asbestos and gutted the interior of the small rooms over the last month. Remodeling will start soon and is scheduled to be finished by the end of November, according to Julie Maple, a principal in Poss Architecture and Planning, which designed the renovation.

The work was actually approved in two permits issued for each of the buildings that comprise the Cortina, which is west of the intersection of Main and Monarch streets. The value of the Cortina renovation is estimated at $890,000, according to the permits.

The timing of an extensive overhaul of the interior of the Hotel Jerome remains up in the air.

“The ownership is trying to decide how to proceed on that,” Maple said.

They wanted to start on the upgrade to the employee housing as a “goodwill gesture,” she added.

Jerome Ventures is the third group to own the grand hotel since a $45 million to $50 million interior renovation proposal was approved by Aspen City Council in December 2006. Oklahoma Publishing Co. obtained the approvals after a review process that divided many Aspenites. The Gaylord family, owners of Oklahoma Publishing, abruptly sold the hotel, rather than forge ahead with the renovation, after they were reportedly demoralized by the review process.

LCP-Elysian Aspen Owner LLC bought the hotel in 2007 but didn’t undertake the renovation plan. It allegedly defaulted on a bank loan and lost the hotel earlier this year to the three partners in Jerome Ventures – Chicago real estate investors Fred Latsko, Mark Hunt and Don Wilson Jr.

The approval allows all 92 rooms to be gutted, with luxury bathrooms and gas fireplaces added in the remodeling. The plan also allows renovation of the lobby, replacement of all windows and upgrades to the mechanical system.

Jerome B. Wheeler built the hotel in 1889. It’s been remodeled several times since.

At the time their renovation plan was reviewed, the Gaylords said that the upgrades were needed to elevate the Hotel Jerome to a five-star facility. The renovation is at the discretion of the current owners.

While the renovation of the Cortina isn’t nearly as sexy, it was just as vital. The cramped, cold rooms of the employee housing facility were a step above uninhabitable.

One wing of the Cortina will be turned into dorm-style housing with central bathrooms, Maple said. In another wing, some studio units will be reconfigured and enlarged. The remodel project will greatly enhance the buildings’ energy efficiency and spruce up the exterior, with new doors and winters, gutters, paint and a partial new roof. The remodeled lodge will house 21 employees.

The owners have also applied for a historic landmark designation for the Cortina, as the city government requested during the review in 2006, Maple said.

Sunny Vann, an Aspen land-use planner who worked on the renovation plan for Oklahoma Publishing Co., said the Cortina renovation was a requirement of the broader renovation approval. “It has to be done prior to the renovations to the hotel,” he said.

The approvals for renovation of the Hotel Jerome remain intact, though vested rights for the project have expired, said Chris Bendon, city community development director. If the owners decide to move forward with the project, they must comply with any new building code regulations implemented since the approval was granted, he said.

They would not have to get the plan reviewed by the City Council again unless there were major alterations, according to Bendon.

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