Skico eyeing hotel housing | AspenTimes.com

Skico eyeing hotel housing

Sarah S. Chung

The Grand Aspen Hotel may not be headed for demolition next month, as planned, and as a result the Aspen Skiing Co. could see a 196-bed windfall this winter.

Savanah Limited Partners, prompted by a request from the Music Associates of Aspen, is asking for a one-year extension on the life of the 150-room hotel.

But given previous plans to tear down the hotel in October, no winter staff has been hired or any reservations taken for the upcoming ski season. That’s where Skico may step in.

“When they heard about the Music Associates’ request, Skico called us up and asked, `If you’re contemplating a deal with them, why not with us?'” said John Sarpa, representing Savanah.

Discussions about using the hotel for Skico employee housing are still in the formative stages. But Jim Laing, vice president of human resources at the Skico, confirmed that the possibility is being explored.

The MAA’s recent concern that a quarter of its student body could end up with no housing next summer has been lessened by the start of construction on the 200-bed seasonal Burlingame project. However, litigation is still pending against the project. And with a three-week delay in groundbreaking, a possibility still exists that Burlingame won’t be finished by the start of the next Music Festival.

But even if Burlingame is completed in time, finding a use for 196 extra beds would be the least of the school’s concerns, said MAA president Robert Harth.

“Burlingame does not solve our housing problem; all it does is replace the beds we had at the Grand Aspen,” he said.

This summer the MAA housed 69 percent of its students in four different places. But as the housing market continues to get tighter, the festival would welcome additional housing for its staff and students, Harth said.

In order for the Grand Aspen to escape the wrecking ball, the Aspen City Council must approve Savanah’s extension request. Savanah is not even halfway through the approval process to replace the Grand Aspen with another 150-room hotel. As a result, the council will likely look kindly upon the request, said Julie Ann Woods, city planning director.

The new hotel application was submitted about a year ago but so far has only received conceptual approval by the housing board. Savanah will meet again with the city planning and zoning commission next week.

“Anticipating that there might be a big hole in the middle of the community for some time against using the hotel for employee housing, the alternatives to demolition start to look pretty good,” Woods said.

Harth agreed. “It seems a waste to tear it down when we could use it in the summer and the Skico could use it in the winter. It could be a win-win for everybody.”

Hearings before the City Council for the extension request are scheduled for Sept. 13 and 27.


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