Obermeyer ready to unveil new plans | AspenTimes.com

Obermeyer ready to unveil new plans

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Two months after the would-be developers of Obermeyer Place went back to the drawing board to again revise their proposal, they are optimistically ready to present their latest plan.

They will unveil a scaled-back project to the Obermeyer COWOP task force today. The session is scheduled in the Aspen Alps conference room from 2 to 6 p.m.

While the specifics of the latest plan are being kept under wraps until today’s presentation, project spokesman Ben Gagnon said it will still fulfill the many goals established early on by the city of Aspen and the landowners who are partners in the public/private venture.

“It’s certainly going to address all the goals that were there in the beginning,” he said.

It will also be “digestible” to the community, predicted the man driving the project, Sport Obermeyer founder Klaus Obermeyer.

“Quite a few things have changed,? he said. “It’s a lot friendlier project now. I think it’s doable now. I think the community will love it.”

The Obermeyer task force, made up of government representatives, neighbors and property owners, has been working since early this year on a proposal to redevelop a pocket of buildings along Rio Grande Place and East Bleeker Street. Three private individuals and the city own property in the area.

Obermeyer is the major landowner and initiated the joint redevelopment effort. It was his hope to replace some rundown buildings that he owns in the neighborhood with something that better serves the tenants there.

It is his team of design and financial consultants who have been working with the city-appointed task force. While the group came up with some good ideas, Obermeyer said, the overall project got a little too big.

“I think we’ve got it to a size now that is digestible,” he said.

The latest iteration of the plans still calls for the replacement of roughly 37,000 square feet of existing service/commercial/industrial space in the collection of buildings, Gagnon said. The funky neighborhood contains a mixture of homes and buildings that house the kinds of local-serving businesses that have been pushed out of Aspen’s high-priced commercial core, like an auto repair shop, painter, welder and florists.

The plans also still include affordable housing and some underground public parking, which the city would like to realize out of the redevelopment, he said.

Although relocation of the recycling center from Rio Grande Park into the development is no longer in the plans, sprucing up the recycling compound is part of the project, Gagnon said.

The biggest stumbling block to previous iterations of the development plan ? the height of the proposed buildings ? has also been addressed, he said.

In August, the designers presented plans for two buildings with partial fourth floors. Their height, with flat roofs, stood at 45 feet, generating continuing objections from neighboring property owners. Some members of the City Council and the community at large were also troubled by the tall buildings.

“The height has been reduced from the last plan,” Gagnon said yesterday. “We’re very close to the zone district height limit (35 feet). We’ve responded to try to make this something that everybody can live with.”

With Obermeyer Place, the city’s COWOP process is being used for the first time to design a public/private project. The City Council established the COWOP review to forward development proposals in which the city is both the applicant and the body that will review it.

Projects are eligible when they are for the Convenience and Welfare of the Public, hence the acronym. For a city project, a COWOP task force brings together representatives of various city and county review boards and the public. They come up with a development proposal that can then go directly to the City Council.

A private developer, however, would typically come forward with a conceptual proposal and seek conceptual approval before spending money to draft a detailed final plan.

It is unclear how the Obermeyer design team should proceed under the COWOP process, Gagnon said.

“I think one of the challenges at this point is to clearly define the process from here on out,” he said.

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

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