Obermeyer Place now includes medical offices

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen Valley Hospital is pursuing a long-term lease of medical office space at Obermeyer Place with an option to buy it, according to John Sarpa, president of the AVH board of directors.

Though no deal has been finalized, both the developers of Obermeyer Place and hospital officials voiced confidence Wednesday that the offices will be a component of the project.

The AVH board met this week and directed administrators to move forward on the office plan, Sarpa said.

Architects have redesigned Obermeyer Place to incorporate the offices; their ideas were presented yesterday to the community task force overseeing the planning of the development.

“We’ve gone back and forth enough that we’re confident the remaining issues can be resolved,” Sarpa said of the negotiations with the Obermeyer development team. AVH would be leasing the space on behalf of physicians affiliated with the hospital for as long as 15 to 25 years, with an option to buy the office space in the future, he said.

“Where we are now is hammering out terms, economically and physically,” confirmed Tim Belinski, Obermeyer chief financial officer.

For the developers, the office space is no “economic coup,” Belinski said, but AVH does provide an anchor tenant of sorts that will help Obermeyer convince a lender to help finance what will be close to a $60 million project. The doctors’ offices also add to the diversity and vibrancy of what was already a mixed-use project, he said.

Obermeyer Place involves the redevelopment of a collection of buildings that border Rio Grande Place, Spring Street and East Bleeker Street, south of Rio Grande Park. It is currently home to several funky residences and an eclectic assortment of service/industrial businesses, like an auto repair shop, welder, ski tuner, glass shop, gym, pet groomer and the like.

A conceptual plan for the redevelopment won City Council approval last fall; detailed plans are now coming together.

Architects are looking to provide about 9,000 square feet for the medical offices in the north building that will overlook the park; the latest designs provide about 8,140 square feet.

The new designs retain the 35-foot height limit on the tallest among the five buildings in the project and still include 21 deed-restricted housing units and 21 free-market residences.

The goal of the redevelopment was to retain all of the existing 37,344 square feet of service/industrial/commercial space that exists there currently; the latest plans come up about 2,000 square feet short. Designers are still looking to tweak the designs to make up the difference, said architect Bob Schiller of Cottle Graybeal Yaw Architects.

Most notably, the latest designs now call for two levels of underground parking rather than one in order to accommodate the additional spaces for the medical offices. The project now contains 196 parking spaces, including 48 surface spaces.

The free-market housing will take up about 53,000 square feet, and the deed-restricted units for local workers will encompass a little more than 16,000 square feet.

In all, the enclosed square footage in the project now stands at 220,000 square feet, Schiller said.

The hospital will not participate in the construction costs for the project, but will lease both the office space and the underground parking that it necessitates, according to Sarpa.

“It’s millions of dollars we’re obligating ourselves to,” he said.

The hospital must also address the city’s requirements to provide employee housing in conjunction with the offices, Sarpa noted.

AVH purchased the former Beaumont Inn several years ago and converted it to housing for its employees. That effort was made simply because the hospital needed the housing rather than as mitigation for any new development. The hospital’s first step will be to ask the housing board and the city to credit the Beaumont as the housing mitigation for the new office space, Sarpa said.

Other options may be expanding the Beaumont with several additional units or paying cash in lieu of housing, he said.

The Obermeyer development team, meanwhile, will bring the architectural details of the project to the task force next Wednesday with hopes of getting a formal recommendation it can take to the City Council.

Architects are looking at several materials for the flat-roofed buildings, but they will generally carry the theme of the town’s traditional red-brick and stone structures, said architect John Cottle. He predicted the buildings will incorporate several styles of brick; some large-scale masonry such as precast concrete or sandstone; steel and some wood siding.

Preliminary sketches show buildings that are unique, and yet reflect the town’s other downtown structures, Cottle noted.

“It’s not a project, it’s a neighborhood,” he said. “It belongs to its community, but it’s also distinguishable within its community.”

Obermeyer Place was inspired by Klaus Obermeyer, the major property owner in the development and the driving force behind the plan, which involves two other private property owners and the city. The goal was to create a single redevelopment project that would represent a vast improvement over what they could do individually.

The city-appointed task force, made up of property owners, neighbors, city officials and citizens at large, has been working on the plans with Obermeyer’s development team for about a year.

What has evolved is “way outside any kind of vision we had for what we could do on the site,” Belinski said.

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