Marolt: Gorsuch Haus should offer a solution, not a problem
I am sorry to have Trumped you. I humbly beg your forgiveness. The last thing this world needs now is another alternative fact or more fake news.
It happened last week on the KJAX Valley Roundup radio show. Comparing the proposed Gorsuch Haus to Wal-Mart in Glenwood, I said the downvalley big box was 45,000 square feet to Gorsuch’s 70,000. The Wal-Mart number came from an on-the-spot calculation in my head addled with NyQuil to keep a bad cold at bay long enough to do the show. It’s no excuse. If the label warns not to drive on the stuff, it doesn’t make sense to do math on it either.
The actual size of Wal-Mart is about 100,000 square feet. To set the record straight, then, the proposed Gorsuch Haus hotel would be about 70 percent the size of Wal-Mart. There. It’s good to get that corrected. All said, I still think it’s too big. Gorsuch Haus, that is, not Wal-Mart. Well, maybe Wal-Mart, too.
Damped down by that dose of humility, I now submit to you the major points I think should be considered in deciding whether the new hotel should be approved for development.
First of all, this is not the usual Aspen development question about tearing down an old building and replacing it with something new. The fact is that the Gorsuch Haus site has never had any structure on it, except maybe a finish-line timing shack. It has always been open space. Not only that, it has always been open space dedicated to public purpose since the first skiers descended Aspen Mountain. That’s a big deal not often mentioned.
Secondly, I think it is important to remember that when the Lift 1 part of town was vibrant many years ago, there was nothing on the Gorsuch site. The point is that a building on that piece of open space is not key to reviving the area. Claiming this is a critical component to bringing the dead zone back to life is not supported by our own experience and history.
Third, I believe it would be silly not to consider the probability of this project actually being successful in creating vibrancy on the upskirts of town. There will be no parking on the street. It is a pain in the Aspen Street to walk up there. Nobody likes the idea of a steady stream of shuttles back and forth from Rubey Park. And they say it is impossible to run a ski lift farther down toward town. Well then, has anyone stopped to ask, How the heck is anyone going to get up there? And if nobody goes up there, how can it possibly become vibrant?
Fourth, some say we will never get a new lift to replace the aged existing 1A chairlift if they are not allowed to build a hotel on the Gorsuch site. This is actually the most patently ridiculous notion in the debate. Of course Aspen Skiing Co. will spring for a new lift there, with or without a new hotel at its base. The face of Aspen Mountain is not just another pretty awesome face to ski down; it also is the face of Skico. They cannot possibly afford for a rusty, old, inoperable ski lift to be the first thing visitors see when they look up from town.
Remember a couple of years ago we were told that we would never host ski racing’s World Cup Finals if we didn’t approve the new hotel then? Well, get pumped, because they’ll be here three weeks from today! Of course Skico is going to replace lift 1A. It’s a forgone conclusion.
Finally — and this might be my favorite worst argument to green-light the digging up there — people concede that something will ultimately be built on that site, so we might as well take this plan because the next one might be worse. Here is weak logic astir in the palaver.
Think what the next developers might think if this current plan gets shot down. They might think there is nothing assured about getting a gigantic hotel approved there. This might cause them to think that the asking price for the land is way too high. They might then negotiate a markedly lower purchase price for that land that will allow them to build a much smaller hotel and still make it profitable. They can then hand us a solution and not a problem to be worked out.
Roger Marolt asks the fact checkers to have at it. He thinks he got it right this time. Email at email@example.com.
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