S’mass Town Council looks at height, massing of proposed Snowmass Center redevelopment

Councilman Bill Madsen listens as Richard Shaw with the Design Workshop explains the story poles depicting the proposed Snowmass Center redevelopment during a walking site tour on Dec. 2.
Maddie Vincent/Snowmass Sun

Snowmass Town Council continued discussing the proposed redevelopment design for the Snowmass Center on Dec. 2, focusing on height variances and density.

After an hour-long walking tour of the Snowmass Center — where the Eastwood Snowmass Investors and Design Workshop developer team showed council members the proposed placement and heights of the 11-building center redevelopment and expansion project — the group returned to council chambers to further analyze the design specifics.

“We think the massing of the buildings makes a generally good statement to the project and its redevelopment,” Richard Shaw with Design Workshop said to council. “We really have easily a three-story environment to work within and to be compatible with.”

Some of the specifics related to height and massing Shaw discussed with council were the desire to both work with the existing topography to design the new buildings, meaning more stories on sides with steeper slopes; redeveloping the main center area so it sits on one even level, which means raising up the current street level adjacent to the center roughly three feet to the center entrance level; and preserving and enhancing views of Mount Daly and the Snowmass Ski Area from the center “main street” and gathering spaces.

As previously reported, the Planning Commission approved the redevelopment proposal with dozens of specified development conditions in early September.

The plan for the center includes an additional 16,646 square feet of “community serving” commercial and 78 multi-family residential units (68 free market, 10 deed-restricted); the addition of 138 underground parking spaces, bringing the total above and below surface spots to 324; an atrium and increase in public meeting spaces; a new public transit facility; and significant renovations of the existing center businesses, including the U.S. Post Office and Clark’s Market.

The tallest building will be about 52 feet tall, and a few others will exceed the 38-foot maximum building height and encroach on areas with a 30% grade slope, plan documents state, which council was tasked with reviewing Dec. 2. The applicant also requested variances in parking and residential unit count.

“We have tried with individual buildings to relate them to each other, to relate them to the context and to carry forward the conversations we’ve previously had about where height is an issue,” Shaw said. “We want to be sure the height and the density is practical so that it does not disrupt the character of Snowmass.”

After the site visit and Shaw’s brief presentation, council expressed concerns with making any decision about height variances or massing based solely on story poles, as they don’t depict the true size and scope of the proposed buildings.

“I like story poles but they don’t tell the whole story,” said Mayor Markey Butler. “The challenge is we really don’t know what the views are going to be.”

Butler and other council members told Shaw they were concerned with losing views of the ridgeline behind the current center and of downvalley. Council also was concerned with the potentially negative effects of the shadows created by the new buildings.

“With the size of the buildings, I question the amount of snow buildup. We’re trying to avoid snowmelt situations,” Councilman Tom Goode said. “And the elevations concern me, they totally concern me. I don’t know how people are going to see the ridge.”

Town Council voted to continue its discussions on the proposed center’s height variances and massing to its Dec. 9 meeting at 4 p.m. Council also plans to start conversations around the proposed center’s connectivity and circulation, and what the community purpose requirement should look like.

Shaw and the developer team agreed to bring imagery that better shows the heights, massing and subsequent view lines to the Dec. 9 meeting, along with building shadow and project phasing information.

A website for the Snowmass Center and its redevelopment proposal can be found at