Redevelopment of downtown Aspen space hits snag " city’s moratorium
ASPEN ” It appears that plans to transform the now defunct Aspen Comedy Club space on Cooper Avenue into five detail shops has hit a snag.
Peter Fornell, whose brother-in-law just purchased the space at 520 E. Cooper Ave. this month, is asking for an exemption to a city moratorium that forbids the issuance of building permits in the commercial core zone district.
The moratorium is scheduled to expire June 12, but the City Council is expected to extend it for another six months.
Community development officials are recommending to the City Council that it not grant Fornell an exemption because changing the use of the building goes against the intent of the moratorium. The council is expected to take up the issue Monday, April 28.
The moratorium was put in place while the City Council decides how to regulate the commercial mix downtown so there are locally-serving businesses and not all high-end retail shops. City Hall is working with a consultant in developing potential legislative options.
The intent of the moratorium is to essentially freeze existing uses until the council determines whether to regulate downtown commercial spaces.
“In the case of Mr. Fornell’s request, staff finds that the replacement of one large restaurant with one small restaurant and four small retail stores would substantially alter the profile of the use,” wrote Ben Gagnon, City Hall’s special projects planner, in a memo to council.
Fornell, who is representing his brother-in-law, John Cooper, plans to redevelop the space into five retail spaces ranging in size from 300 to 650 square feet.
The basement space for the past couple of decades traditionally has housed restaurants ” most recently Texas Reds Barbecue.
Fornell said he wants to reconfigure the space so a stairwell leads directly off the sidewalk to a courtyard and a 12-foot-wide atrium area, which would provide access to the retail shops. A retractable glass front door would be installed at the entrance of the indoor area. Fornell envisions one of the spaces to be used for light food service, possibly a noodle bar.
Fornell said by renting the spaces from as low as $1,800 to as much as $4,200 a month, he and Cooper can make the plan financially viable. That puts the square-footage rate in the mid-$70 range.
About 1,000 square feet will be taken out of the equation for the atrium, leaving about 2,700 net leasable space. Fornell said he plans to drop the space 2 feet lower to make the ceilings higher.
City officials are skeptical that future tenants will truly be “locally-serving business.”
“Staff believes this change in uses from restaurant to retail, even if restricted to basement spaces, could contribute to a significant change in the character of downtown,” Gagnon wrote.
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