Let’s get Gorsuch Haus done
Dear Mayor and City Council,
I am glad you are giving serious consideration to the Gorsuch application for a true hotel on the Lift One side of Aspen Mountain.
It has been over eight years since the COWOP (citizens panel/committee) met for months to discuss John Sarpa’s group hotel proposal. The council put some store in the COWOP recommendation at that time but backed away and did not approve any hotel at that time.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room looming over the process at that time was the existing approval for 14 luxury townhouses running the length of the west side of Aspen Street from the Lift One Complex to the Shadow Mountain complex at the top. If the hotel developer did not get approval for a hotel, his fallback position was the existing approval for 14 luxury townhomes in that location, which ran with that parcel. The community needed 14 more luxury townhouses like it needed a hole in its head.
These lovely second homes, which are now under construction and are fetching top dollar, will look fine nicely lined up like sentinels. The developers are all doing well. The only one positive aspect for the community is the production of some affordable housing.
What Aspen did not get was added life and vitality to this side of the mountain. There is still no “center,” no sense of community and no new hot beds. The approved Brown family’s project above the South Point Complex and running up the hill of Aspen Street on the east side is essentially an interval-ownership project with some free-market condos.
Again, it offers no public spaces, bars, lounges and restaurants and will not be a magnet to attract locals and visitors like The Little Nell, the Sky and its new iteration, the Limelight, St. Regis, Viceroy, Westin and Inn at Aspen at the base of our ski mountains already do. Who knows if this approved project on the east side of Aspen Street will ever even be developed?
A commercial real estate developer from Brisbane, Australia, spoke strongly for more fun, exciting, gathering and public places in Aspen when he was participating at the community roundtable on Jan. 19. “The more, the better,” he said. This hotel proposal fits that bill.
By virtue of previous approvals and earlier city decisions, the Gorsuch Haus proposal has to go this far up Aspen Street. Yet at the top end, it is virtually parallel to the Mountain Queen complex. It is the only place such a true hot-beds hotel could be built. I have walked the site and looked down on it from the top of the Shadow Mountain Condominiums. It will not block anyone’s view of the mountain. It will offer hot beds, great public gathering places, a new lift, more affordable housing and a sensational framework for future World Cup races, NorAm races and local Aspen Ski and Snowboarding Club events. These are the phenomena that make Aspen truly a ski town.
A new hotel and new lift on this spot will enhance and help promote alpine skiing and racing activity. By being a bit higher on the mountain, it mimics the feeling of some of the top Alpine ski resorts in Europe. We will all be reminded for the FIS Ski World Cup Finals in March how dismal and neglected this west portal to the mountain is.
It is up to the council and staff to analyze, measure and tweak the proposal and work with the applicant to make it fit for the town and work for the developers. There are a lot of moving parts, as would be expected for such an important new building. It is a great opportunity for the council to engage the applicants and make their proposal come to fruition and make it work for locals and visitors alike. There has to be flexibility, give and take by the city and the applicant. This side of the mountain has been moribund since I arrived in 1972. The new Lift One can stop right at the lower portion of the proposed hotel. It is not actually practical to take the life any lower. Here is a great chance to energize and breathe new life into this side of the mountain.
Please do not miss this great chance for the community. This proposed hotel and the new Lift One will become a launching pad for the west portal of the mountain, just as The Little Nell and Sky hotels are the public features for the east portal to the mountain at the gondola.