No love for the Cooper Street Pier?

John Colson
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

The “White Shirts” showed up in minimal numbers Wednesday, and the threatened protest over plans to demolish a cherished downtown institution never gathered any steam.The Cooper Street Pier, one of Aspen’s last truly funky places to eat and drink, is destined for the wrecking ball at some point in the coming months.Residents worried that developers are tearing down old Aspen too fast and without regard to history planned a “protest” showing at the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission meeting Wednesday. The group, known as the White Shirts for their “I (heart) Aspen T-shirts, put up posters all over town calling for participants.Of about half-dozen who showed up, only three spoke, and their comments were not as confrontational as predicted.

“We’re all worried that this place is going to start looking like Vail, or other resorts, said Ann Wycoff.”We’re not anti-growth, we’re not anti-development,” she said, the group is merely asking “why it’s going this way so quickly.”Former HPC and City Council member Georgeann Waggaman suggested a couple of changes to the designs, and former Mayor Bill Stirling asked how the project fit in with certain city codes. The discussion acknowledged and incorporated both the suggestions and the questions.But the HPC and the city’s historic preservation planner, Amy Guthrie, objected to enough of the elements of the redevelopment plan that the commission put off further review until June 14. That will give the project’s designers, architect Bill Poss and planner Mitch Haas, time to revise their proposal.

Among Guthrie’s and the HPC members’ objections were the placement of the entry to the restaurant on the ground floor, and the lack of a built-in “air lock” for keeping the heat inside in the winter. Members also were critical of the ceiling height of one part of a split-level penthouse condo proposed for the top of the building.The 6,600-square-foot building would consist of a basement, ground floor and second floor for commercial space, with a 2,700-square-foot, glass-fronted residential penthouse on top. The ground floor would have a glass front, as does the existing Cooper Street Pier, while the second floor would be a brick facade with vertical windows, reminiscent of Aspen’s traditional Victorian architecture.The members of the HPC each applauded the part of the plan that called for preservation of the eastern, western and northern walls of the building, which was first constructed in the late 1800s but has undergone extensive modification.The HPC also basically gave its OK for plans to demolish the rest of the building, including the steel and glass facade and the guts of the interior.

But when Haas tried to get the commission to give its approval for the demolition immediately, rather than wait for the rest of the review to unfold, the HPC balked.”We’re not going to run right out and demo the building,” Haas promised, saying his only concern is to get at least the demolition approved “before any sort of emergency ordinance can be passed.”He was referring to mounting community turmoil over the pace of redevelopment in Aspen and recent indications that the City Council may be considering a demolition moratorium. Haas was reassured that because the Cooper Street Pier project was already in the planning process it would not be affected by any such moratorium.The four commission members – Jeffrey Halferty, Alison Agley, Derek Skalko and Jason Lasser – after some discussion, unanimously rejected Haas’ request.John Colson’s e-mail address is