The incredible shrinking Lodge at Aspen Mountain
ASPEN – Another revision of the controversial Lodge at Aspen Mountain hotel was presented Wednesday, smaller than any other proposal seen over the past six years.
John Sarpa, who represents Aspen Land Fund II, the development company proposing to build a hotel and residence property along South Aspen Street at the base of Ajax, unveiled the latest design in front of a citizen task force known as the Lodge at Aspen COWOP (convenience and welfare of the public). That group is scheduled to make a recommendation to the Aspen City Council of whether to approve or deny the land-use application on Nov. 18.
The group had asked to see a scaled-down version of the building without public amenities like a snowmelted street, public parking and a host of other items that add to the developers’ costs.
The result so far is a 20,000-square-foot reduction in size from an earlier version presented this summer, which proposed 160,000 square feet. And that proposal was 10 percent less than what the Aspen City Council voted in January to send out for a public vote. A different COWOP last fall had recommended a 175,000-square-foot hotel to the council. The proposal was scheduled for a public vote in May but was pulled so developers could regroup.
Since January, the hotel proposal has dropped 35,000 square feet in above-grade space. It has gone from 75 hotel rooms to 70. Those rooms are now proposed at 450 square feet instead of 500.
Additionally, the 26 fractional units proposed have dropped to 20, shaving off 18,000 square feet from the development. The units remain at 3,000 square feet each.
The proposed five whole ownership units at 3,500 square feet remain unchanged.
One of the more significant changes is in parking: Spaces have been reduced from 256 to 147. Fifty-two would be reserved for hotel guests and operations; 21 would be set aside for residents of affordable housing; 30 for use by the Aspen Skiing Co. and 44 dedicated to neighbors of the project who will lose street and public parking as a result of the development.
The reduction of the hotel’s size also decreases the number of employees required to work there. Instead of the equivalent of 56.25 employees, it’s now proposed that the hotel would employ 36.75 workers, who would live on site in 21 units that range from studios to three-bedroom apartments.
The fractional units on the property would provide “lock-off” rooms that could be rented to the public. For example, a portion of a three-bedroom unit could have a separate entrance and key that could be rented out.
As a result, there could be as many as 100 room keys at the property, putting it on par with other hotels like the Little Nell and the Jerome.
Another change in the proposal is that the hotel will not be as high end as originally envisioned.
“We’ve changed our minds about what kind of hotel this is … it’s not going to be a five-star hotel but something lower in category,” Sarpa said. “It’s not going to be the highest of the highest.”
Keith Howie, principal architect for Poss Architecture + Planning, and owner Bill Poss, presented to the group 3-D renderings of what the scale and mass of the three separate buildings would look like.
What was dubbed the “wedding cake” aspect of the schematics was intended to illustrate the volumetric impact the project would have on the streetscape.
The entire hotel would be broken up into three different buildings but connected. There will be three stories along the street, and four and five stories in the middle of the building with the highest point possibly reaching 45 feet.
Meanwhile, Aspen Land Fund II filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 25 as part of strategic move designed to prevent a third party from acquiring the land and development rights on South Aspen Street.
While the company was renegotiating the loan on the 2.4-acre site with Alpine Bank, the bank informed developers that it had entered into an agreement with an unknown third party to sell the note.
That third party has stated that it intends to eliminate Aspen Land Fund II and move forward in building 17 townhomes, which were approved seven years ago by a previous City Council. The approval is for 75,000 square feet above grade – roughly half the size of the proposed hotel.
Sarpa said Aspen Land Fund II has new capital sources, and investors are confident that there can be a reorganization and financing plan developed that will allow the process and the eventual hotel project to be successful.
Sarpa also said his company has entered into discussions with Alpine Bank and is attempting to renegotiate the bank loan.
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