Obermeyer Place gets green light from City Council | AspenTimes.com

Obermeyer Place gets green light from City Council

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen’s proposed new “infill” regulations are a long way from adoption, but the town’s first real infill project took a big step forward Monday with the City Council’s unanimous endorsement of Obermeyer Place.

The council approved a resolution blessing the conceptual plans for the project and giving developers the green light to move forward with final, detailed plans for the ambitious redevelopment project.

Although the city’s existing land-use code doesn’t exactly accommodate what has been proposed at Obermeyer Place, members of the public and the council praised property owner Klaus Obermeyer and his development team for coming up with the kind of project Aspen hopes to foster with a new set of land-use regulations that are still in the review stage.

The project calls for the redevelopment of a funky collection of buildings that border Rio Grande Place, Spring Street and East Bleeker Street, where many of Aspen’s remaining service/industrial businesses exist. An auto repair shop, florist, painter, glass shop, ski tuner, pet groomer and the like do business there. In all, some 30 existing businesses would get new spaces in which to operate with the construction of Obermeyer Place. Roughly 37,000 square feet of existing service/commercial/industrial space (including some that is approved but, as yet, unbuilt) would all be replaced with new SCI space.

In addition, 21 free-market residences are planned to help subsidize the commercial spaces, which would rent at below-market rates. Twenty-one deed-restricted units, to be sold at the cost of their construction, are also planned, along with a combination of underground and surface parking to serve the entire development.

East Bleeker Street would be eliminated to create a pedestrian plaza serving the newly created neighborhood of businesses and condos.

The project encompasses parcels owned by three landowners; several slivers of city property would be used for surface parking and access.

“This is such a phenomenal project. You guys should cut a little red tape and make this thing happen,” said local resident Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass.

“It will send a tremendous message to other developers ? get out of the box, be creative,” agreed local developer John Sarpa of the Snowmass Land Co.

The city may be setting a new precedent in letting free-market residences subsidize the service/commercial/industrial space, which will be rebuilt without the affordable housing the city code would normally require, warned Councilman Tim Semrau, also a developer.

“We’re completely stepping outside the rules,” he said. “If we’re setting de facto policy into the future, I want it to be clear.”

“Yeah, maybe we’re out there on the edge right now,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “I’m willing to take that risk right now.”

Hanging onto the few pockets of SCI-zoned space in Aspen is worth the change in land-use philosophy, agreed Councilman Tom McCabe, who owns a repair shop in an SCI building elsewhere.

“If my landlord comes forward and says, ‘Maybe I can do something with this building,’ maybe we should listen to him,” McCabe said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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