Snowmass Center gets positive review in front of Town Council | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Center gets positive review in front of Town Council

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

One of the largest projects ever proposed in Snowmass Village made progress Monday night in front of the Town Council.

But, as Dale Eubank, one of the partners in the Snowmass Center project, put it after the meeting, “This is a long process.”

The proposed redevelopment of the Snowmass Center, home to the town’s grocery store and post office, is wending its way through the sketch plan or conceptual stage of the town’s land-use process.

If approved, the center would grow from a 53,000-square-foot building to a 74,000-square-foot building, and 69 condos would be built on top of and behind the core building. Some of the new condo buildings would be six stories tall.

The project also includes four single-family lots on the hillside behind the neighboring Woodbridge condo complex and a redeveloped 211-space parking structure in front of the grocery store.

On Monday night, the members of the Town Council worked through a list of “core issues” identified by the town’s planning staff. Those include the height and scale of the buildings as seen from Brush Creek Road, how firetrucks would access the new buildings, and how the project would be connected to the proposed Base Village project.

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Overall, the comments from the council members seemed to indicate the project was moving toward approval, which has not always been the case with the Snowmass Center project.

“It depends on which week you’re here,” said Eubank, when asked if he thought the project was faring well. “But there seems to be a positive attitude.”

Town Council members viewed a new set of renderings of the project, prepared by Richard Shaw of Design Workshop, that showed how the buildings, some up to 75 feet high, would look from the town’s main road.

“This is not a wall of buildings with no variation,” Shaw explained to the council.

But most of the council members said they thought at least one of the new buildings – near the end of the wooden pedestrian bridge across Brush Creek Road – was too big.

“It’s more impactful to the surrounding neighborhood than the other buildings,” said Councilman Doug Mercatoris.

And while the council struggled to get a good sense of how imposing a six-story building proposed for the other end of the project would be, they generally thought the tall buildings farther back from Brush Creek Road were acceptable.

However, the reality of potentially approving a six-story building on the hillside behind the center was brought home by John Mele, the fire marshal for the Snowmass Village Fire Department.

Mele told the council that because access to the buildings would be difficult, he recommended they be built to the standard of high-rise office buildings, with steel skeletons, special roofs and as little wood as possible.

Using Saturday’s fire at the Seasons Four condo complex as an example, Mele made the point that if a tall building is going to be built in Snowmass Village with limited access, it’s going to have to be built to the highest standards.

“Had we not had access all around that building [at Seasons Four], we would have lost it,” Mele said. “Build fire safety into the buildings and take a little pressure off of us.”

Another key component of the Snowmass Center redevelopment plan is a proposed aerial connection across Brush Creek Road to the proposed Base Village project, which is currently being reviewed by the town’s Planning Commission.

Shaw told the council that the developers of the center were prepared to help pay for some type of people mover, probably a gondola, between the center and Base Village.

“We are part of the people-mover system,” Shaw said. “We will pay a pro rata share. It is a contribution to the town.”

In the current conceptual plan, a gondola station would be built on the uphill end of the new Snowmass Center, and the gondola cars would cross Brush Creek Road and land somewhere in Base Village.

The developers of the center and the developers of Base Village – the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest – have not yet submitted a coordinated plan that connects the two projects with a gondola, despite it being a top priority of the Snowmass Village Town Council.

The Snowmass Center project will again be in front of the Town Council next Monday, March 18.