Our one shot at Lift One | AspenTimes.com

Our one shot at Lift One

We hate to break this news just after a long and contentious presidential election, but it’s time for Aspenites to get informed and get involved. One of the largest development proposals in Aspen history is now before the Aspen City Council.

The Lift One Master Plan ” a complex proposal created over some six months by a 27-member committee of developers, city officials, business people, neighbors and other residents ” went before the council on Monday. Before a decision is made, it will return to council chambers an estimated three more times. The council will review the proposal again on Nov. 24, Dec. 1 and Dec. 8. The public will be given an opportunity to comment on the plan at all of the meetings. People can also read about the project at http://www.aspenpitkin.com/depts/41/liftoneMP.cfm.

This plan, as we’ve said before, is a big deal. It’s nothing less than an architectural and commercial overhaul of South Aspen Street, where the steep, uphill road meets Aspen Mountain. It involves two large hotels, a realigned Lift 1A, retail shops, restaurants and a ski museum.

Borne out of the wreckage of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal, which died in council chambers in September 2007, this master-planning process brought together stakeholders from all sides in an effort to coordinate the redevelopment of an important but dilapidated historic neighborhood. The hope is to restore South Aspen Street as a vital, energetic portal to Aspen’s flagship ski area, while also respecting its roots as the birthplace of skiing in town.

Obviously this was a tall order, and a charge that the task force members took seriously, logging an estimated 2,000 hours collectively. Virtually everyone will find something to dislike about the plan ” this is Aspen, after all ” but the plan represents a compromise forged by a diverse collection of people trying to balance a delicate and often conflicting set of goals. That the proposal exists is a considerable achievement.

The least that this town can do, especially after the acrimony associated with the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal, is to take the master plan seriously ” to study it, understand it and give it a fair hearing.

When the council weighs in on the plan in the coming month, the Lift One neighborhood will face one of two futures. The first, that of a massive, coordinated and master-planned redevelopment, which is huge but has a certain stamp of community approval, or that of a gradual, piecemeal redevelopment in which individual property owners come to the city seeking approval for a narrower and less community-oriented set of goals.

Make no mistake ” this valuable real estate at the top of Aspen Street will eventually be developed. It’s just a matter of how and when. We think this master plan deserves a careful, thoughtful look by anyone who cares about Aspen and its skiing heritage.

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