The Dancing Bear tripped up by size |

The Dancing Bear tripped up by size

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The proposed Dancing Bear Lodge was tripped up Monday by its size.

Aspen City Council members applauded the plan to revitalize “an eyesore” – the site of the vacant and dilapidated Aspen Manor – but roundly criticized the height of the building proposed to replace the old lodge.

“I have two words for this project – Vail scale,” said Cliff Weiss, one of a handful of citizens and neighbors who objected to the five-story lodge. “This is way out of reach for the neighborhood,” he said.

Council members were quick to agree.

“I can’t approve this,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards. “I want to see lodge beds and redevelopment there as much as anyone, but this is just over-reaching.”

Property owner MSE Aspen Holdings Inc., represented by planner Mitch Haas and architect David Brown at last night’s public hearing, has proposed an 11-suite timeshare lodge at the corner of Durant Avenue and South Monarch Street.

The developers are proposing to sell the suites in one-eighth fractions with an average sales price of $487,000.

As proposed, the Dancing Bear Lodge measured 57 feet at the midpoint of a fifth-floor gazebo, to be set back in the middle of the roof, and roughly 54 feet to the top of a front-corner turret that would be the most visible high point of the building.

With the project clearly headed for defeat, the applicants asked the council not to vote on the project, but to continue the public hearing to July 28, giving them time to modify the plans.

“What is the right height, what is the right mix, what is the right use?” Brown quizzed the council. “What will you go for?”

Councilman Tim Semrau suggested a timeshare lodge is the appropriate use for the site and advised the applicants to shoot for the height limit established by the city’s proposed infill legislation. While it hasn’t been adopted, the infill regulations would allow a 30-foot lodge, plus an additional eight feet with the purchase of transferable development rights from a historic building, plus special review and approval.

“I would say 38 feet is probably appropriate to the neighborhood,” Semrau said.

“Great project, fabulous location, but it’s just too big,” he said.

“I definitely have problems with the height,” agreed Mayor Helen Klanderud.

So did Dale Paas, whose family runs the neighboring Limelite Lodge, which would be dwarfed by the proposed Dancing Bear Lodge.

“We’re convinced a massive building of this mass and bulk, will negatively affect our ability to rent rooms,” he said.

Stan Hajenga, whose family owns the nearby Mountain Chalet, also criticized the proposal as out of scale for the neighborhood, though the chalet recently added a fifth story that puts it above the 50-foot mark. The Mountain Chalet is still shorter than the St. Regis-Aspen next door, he noted.

Hajenga also praised the applicants for trying to redevelop the blighted corner.

The Dancing Bear proposal calls for a casual cafe on the ground floor which would be open to the public, underground parking and two two-bedroom employee units within the lodge.

In its construction, the developers hope to meet the highest standard for environmentally friendly construction set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, and plan to provide at least two gas/electric hybrid cars for guests to use, Brown said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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