New lodge is proposed to replace Aspen Manor |

New lodge is proposed to replace Aspen Manor

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Image courtesy of Stryker-Brown Architects.A computer-generated image depicts the proposed Dancing Bear Lodge on the corner of Durant Avenue and Monarch Street, where the vacant Aspen Manor currently sits.

Owners of the vacant Aspen Manor have proposed its replacement with a four-story, time-share lodge that they predict will rejuvenate the “ailing property.”

MSE Aspen Holdings Inc., based in Florida, has submitted an application to the city for development of the Dancing Bear Lodge at the corner of Durant Avenue and Monarch Street. It would replace the Aspen Manor, a run-down, 23-unit lodge that has sat vacant for more than four years.

The old lodge, with orange fencing blocking its entrance, duct tape holding a broken windowpane together and “no trespassing” and “keep out” signs posted around the building, shares a high-profile corner with the Chart House restaurant and the St. Regis Hotel. Across Monarch Street is Wagner Park.

“It has been sending an antithetical message to locals and tourists alike regarding the resort economy and the vitality of lodging and small businesses on the fringe of Aspen’s commercial core,” the development application for the Dancing Bear Lodge notes.

The proposal for the 11,957-square-foot lot calls for a 41,200-square-foot building that includes three subgrade levels, including underground parking, four above-grade stories and a rooftop gazebo.

Ten three-bedroom suites are proposed; each will have one bedroom that can be locked off and rented separately, for 20 units altogether, according to the application. The lodge will feature a lobby and front desk on the ground floor, as well as a lounge/bar and grill.

The subgrade space will include a conference room along with other facilities. The plans call for 19 subgrade parking spaces, plus five other off-street spaces on the site.

A small rooftop swimming pool and hot tub are also proposed. The gazebo will house mechanical equipment and guest facilities like an exercise room, according to the proposal.

The estimated height of the building at the midpoint of the gazebo roof will be 62 feet at most, according to the application. From the sidewalk to the top of the parapet wall at the corner of Durant and Monarch, the building will stand at 49 feet, 6 inches. The building will be shorter than both the St. Regis and the planned Hyatt Grand Aspen that will replace the old Grand Aspen Hotel, the application notes.

MSE Aspen Holdings purchased the lodge property in 1997 for $2.3 million.

Michael S. Egan, president, initially pursued plans for its renovation, but other business interests captured his attention, and the lodge was put on a back burner, according to architect David Brown of Stryker-Brown Architects.

“He was looking at other options as well for the site,” said Brown, the architect for the redevelopment project. Egan has been approached by various potential buyers of the parcel, including local government, which eyed the site for affordable housing, Brown said.

The property, within walking distance of Aspen Mountain, is identified for lodging in the city’s master plan, he added.

“In town, close to the gondola, is where tourist accommodations ought to be,” Brown said. “I think it will be very nice and a nice complement to the downtown area.”

The owners would like to move quickly on the project, once it gains the required city approvals, according to Brown. “We’re going to be patient and let the city tell us what we can do,” he said.

The Dancing Bear Lodge application does not seek approval for the time-share operation. The applicants will seek redevelopment approval first, and then seek an amendment to allow the time-share arrangement after the city is done adopting new time-share regulations.

Aspen is in the process of rewriting its time-share rules and is contemplating other changes to its land-use code to encourage what has been dubbed “infill” development. Infill refers to the redevelopment of in-town properties to provide new commercial space and housing.

The time-share and infill discussions have paved the way to bring forward the new proposal for the lodge property, Brown confirmed.

The applicants intend to exceed the city’s new standards for environmentally friendly construction and design, the application notes.

Affordable housing for the new lodge, if the city requires it, will be provided through the purchase of housing elsewhere or a cash-in-lieu payment.

The applicants plan to coordinate management of the new lodge, including reservations and housekeeping, with an existing lodge or management company. Such an arrangement is already being discussed with The Little Nell hotel, according to the application.

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