Proposed Lodge at Aspen Mountain gets smaller, more affordable
December 13, 2009
ASPEN – The Lodge at Aspen Mountain, which last week received majority support by a citizen committee that will recommend the hotel-residence property for approval, has been reduced 53,000 square feet from its original size.
The Lodge at Aspen Mountain COWOP (convenience and welfare of the public) last Wednesday voted 16-5 in favor of the overall project, as well as for its scale and mass.
The size of the project has been a bone of contention in the community and is ultimately why it didn’t get majority support from the Aspen City Council nearly a year ago.
“It was clear that many members of the public and some council members had a problem with scale and mass,” said John Sarpa, who represents Aspen Land Fund LLC, the development firm behind the proposal.
“We’ve made it work,” Sarpa said of the size reduction, adding many hotel amenities such as meeting space and community rooms are now below the ground.
It was originally proposed at 175,000 square feet along South Aspen Street. Now it’s 122,000 square feet above grade.
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The COWOP recommendation will be forwarded to the council early next year when the proposal will be reviewed in detail before a final vote is made.
The COWOP was convened specifically to address the project’s scale and mass, but the committee also worked on other issues like affordability, accessibility and community benefits.
Sarpa said a significant break through came from the group when its members designed three separate buildings that encompass the entire project.
The first building is located closest to the base of the ski area and is proposed at 35,000 square feet. It contains fractional and whole ownership units.
The second portion, which is the hotel, is proposed at 53,600 square feet.
“That’s about half of the Hotel Jerome or the Little Nell,” Sarpa said. “It’s a huge change.”
The third and lowest section of the project is nearly all residential and is 33,000 square feet.
Upon the COWOP’s request, the developers and their architects from Poss Architecture and Planning calculated that the project covers just under 50 percent of the 2.4-acre site.
Architects are designing open space areas like pedestrian walkways and parks around the property, Sarpa said.
“That was what helped them change their minds,” Sarpa said of COWOP group members, which a few weeks ago were not as supportive of the project.
Another major shift of the project is that the hotel has become lower end, catering to a moderate clientele.
“Instead of going head to head with [the Little Nell] or a five-star property, this probably should be four-star,” Sarpa said.
Fifty-eight of the 74 hotel rooms were reduced from 530 square feet to 450. The rest are suites and range between 600 and 800 square feet. The presidential suite is still “a couple thousand” square feet, Sarpa said.
“About 78 percent of the hotel are standard rooms,” he said, adding smaller rooms mean they will be more affordable.
Sarpa said he will guarantee that 10 percent of the rooms, between eight and 10, will be 35 percent lower in price than the lowest room rate.
“The strategy is to make it as locally inviting as it possibly can be,” he said, adding the property should be accommodating to both the wealthy and the worker bees.
The COWOP also signed off on a rooftop bar complete with a pool and Jacuzzis. Sarpa envisions it to be a cross between the J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome and the outdoor pool at the Sky Hotel, both Aspen establishments.
“We’d be the first rooftop bar in town,” he said. “What a great, fun thing that would be.”
Sarpa added that the COWOP process has led to aspects of the project that he and his development team wouldn’t have thought of.
“There is no way I would have envisioned this dramatic of a change and the fundamental shift in strategy and market we’d be going after,” he said.
City Councilman Steve Skadron, who voted against last year’s proposal and served on the COWOP, said he voted “no” on the project’s scale and mass, but voted in the affirmative that he could support it conceptually.
“I think the project has really come a long way and is worthy of going forward,” he said. “But I’m not convinced we’re there yet.”
Skadron said he still has issues with the buildings’ height, rooflines and site planning. He also said he questions the program and isn’t sure the amount of fractional units are necessary, or good for the resort.
“It’s a community-character issue,” Skadron said, adding he appreciates the developers’ effort. “But the question is: Does it make Aspen better?”