With new Aspen hotel proposal, Hunt goes from affordable to luxury | AspenTimes.com

With new Aspen hotel proposal, Hunt goes from affordable to luxury

Mark Hunt might have lost his campaign to build a so-called affordable lodge on East Main Street, but two blocks around the corner he has his sights set on developing a luxury boutique hotel.

Hunt previously had expressed his intentions to convert the old Crystal Palace building in downtown Aspen to a boutique hotel. Those plans took on a formal posture this week when the Chicago developer, through the Aspen firm Haas Land Planning LLC, submitted an application with the city of Aspen's Community Development Department detailing his designs for the structure, located on the 300 block of East Hyman Avenue.

"It will be a different type of luxury, but it certainly will be luxury," Hunt said Wednesday. "We worked on it quite a bit, and I think it holds together pretty nicely."

Hunt's designs will get plenty of time for public scrutiny before it goes before the Historic Preservation Commission on April 13. At that meeting, commissioners are scheduled to get their first look at the application's conceptual design and growth management, said city planner Sara Adams.

Like some of Hunt's previous land-use applications that have gone before the Historic Preservation Commission, the City Council potentially could call up the Crystal Palace application for review.

The details

Recommended Stories For You

Hunt's application seeks to increase the height of a portion of the Crystal Palace building from 29 feet, 6 inches to 38 feet, with the possibility of 40 feet through a commercial-design review.

Among Hunt's plans for the space are 16 rooms on the upper floors and a 4,950-square-foot restaurant and kitchen on the ground-floor level. The lower level calls for a fitness center, rest rooms, locker areas and a guest lounge.

Fourteen of the guest rooms would be on the building's second floor, averaging nearly 500 square feet, and two suites would be located on a proposed third floor that also would include an outdoor pool, cabana and service bar.

"This renovation, redevelopment and adaptive reuse will involve undertaking significant efforts to preserve and restore the historic integrity of the Crystal Palace structure and revive its glory," the application says.

The application applies to both the two-level Crystal Palace building, built in 1886 and located at 300 E. Hyman Ave., and the one-story building next door at 312 E. Hyman Ave, which was constructed in 1970. Both structures, which are located in the Historic Commercial Core Zone District, are connected and combine for 13,361 square feet of net leasable space. Hunt's application seeks to demolish the 312 E. Hyman Ave. building with the Historic Preservation Commission's approval.

"The 312 structure and portions of the Crystal Palace building proposed for demolition do not contribute to the significance of the commercial core, and their loss would not adversely affect the integrity of the historic district," the application says. "Finally, the proposed demolition will not adversely affect its relationship to the adjacent Crystal Palace and will be inconsequential to the historic preservation needs in the area."

Hunt's application says the new development would generate 37 full-time employees, which is 18.3 fewer workers than the current structure's staffing potential. The application calls for no free-market residential units.

"As such, no housing mitigation will be necessary for this project as it does not generate any additional employees," the application says.

Community Development Director Chris Bendon said the application correctly states that employee-housing mitigation won't be required.

A boon for downtown Aspen?

The application says the new hotel would help re-energize the area. Hunt bought the Crystal Palace building and the one next door to it for $12.5 million in September 2013. The Crystal Palace had been a dinner theater until it permanently closed in April 2008. Frank "Mead" Metcalf originally opened the theater in July 1957 in the Mother Lode building (now occupied by The Aspen Times offices on the ground level), before buying what's known as the Crystal Palace building at the corner of East Hyman Avenue and Monarch Street.

"The proposed development is compatible with the land uses in the surrounding area," the application says. "As mentioned above, the Limelight Lodge is around the corner and the Prospector Lodge is across the street. There are several restaurant spaces in the immediate vicinity. Indeed, the subject property itself used to house a popular restaurant theater space. Furthermore, west of the Wheeler Opera House, this entire block of Hyman Avenue has lacked life and vitality for many years and the proposed development will reinvigorate the area, properly and appropriately re-extending the pedestrian feel and interest of the commercial core to Monarch Street, the Rustique Bistro and the Limelight Lodge."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com