Editorial: Waffling on lawsuit agreement would send wrong message
An agreement is an agreement, and the city of Aspen should hold its ground by not lifting lease restrictions on the downtown spot once occupied by Cooper Street Pier and later Bad Billy’s.
The group that owns the building, located at 508 E. Cooper Ave., is composed of local businessmen Ron Garfield, Andrew Hecht and his son, Nikos, and Joshua Saslove. The owners sued the city after it denied their mixed-use project proposal. But a settlement, hatched in August 2008, said the owners could redevelop the property with a two-story condo nearly twice the size of the city’s allowable limit for downtown — from the 2,500-square-foot restriction to 4,527 square feet. The deal also allowed for ground-level retail space and a basement location that would host an affordable restaurant or bar.
The basement remains vacant, possibly because of the $1 million build-out needed to make it an operable restaurant location. In June, the city even took over the marketing of the spot — the lawsuit stipulates that it have a cap of $50 per square foot with annual increases — but to no avail.
Now the city has a work session scheduled Sept. 16, during which time Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon will present the City Council with a few options for the space. They include keeping the restriction in place and continuing advertising efforts, altering the affordable-lease rates, reconsidering allowable uses or lifting the restrictions entirely.
We hope the city takes a stand and continues to enforce the agreement stemming from the lawsuit settlement. Lifting the restrictions would send a message that the developers won the lawsuit after all, and they would also reap the benefits of bringing in a high-end tenant that wouldn’t cater to local residents. It seems the owners of the buildings — the Hechts, Garfield and Saslove — have gotten their way plenty of times already, all in the name of making more profits.
Why should the city kowtow to them because they can’t fill the space that they own? This shouldn’t be the city’s problem; instead it should be the owners who figure this out.