The proposal to redevelop the Gap property at the corner of Hopkins Avenue and Galena Street does not trigger any affordable housing requirements, even though the new building is designed to have a bigger footprint and is anticipated to replace one business with as many as six.
The building, one of two new proposals for prominent downtown street corners that will be reviewed only by the Historic Preservation Commission and not Aspen City Council, could get final approval at tonight’s HPC meeting.
The Gap building replacement, proposed by real estate investor Mark Hunt, avoids any housing mitigation because it is technically not increasing the property’s net-leasable commercial area. The current building takes up 6,000 square feet on a 9,030-square-foot property — the rest is an undeveloped parking lot. The Gap retail clothing store occupies the entire 6,000-square-foot ground-level space and makes use of a full basement for storage purposes. The current building’s total calculated net-leasable area, according to the city, is 11,319 square feet.
The new project would take up the entire lot, with as many as five smaller retail spaces on the ground floor, and would have a partial second floor intended for a restaurant that could take advantage of a rooftop deck. However, while a basement would be dug out, the developer plans to fill in most of that space so it is unusable. Without counting the basement in the new building, the amount of net-leasable square footage would be the same as the old building and its subterranean space.
Aspen historic preservation officer Amy Guthrie said the city is being vigilant in making sure that the basement is filled so that it actually is unusable.
“We don’t want the wool pulled over our eyes,” she said, noting that HPC will review updated plans at the meeting for how the developer will deal with the basement space.
Guthrie added that the plans are being drawn so that the developer will have the opportunity to convert the basement into usable space in the future, if mitigation requirements are met.
Normally the city requires new development to provide affordable housing — either through new units or a cash-in-lieu payment — for 60 percent of employees generated. Redevelopment projects get credit for the existing employees in the buildings that are being replaced.
Guthrie said the city has not calculated how many employees the new project would generate versus how many are at the Gap now. If the commercial space numbers are equal, then the housing mitigation discussion never takes place, she said.
“It’s just the way we do the calculation,” Guthrie said, noting that different businesses employ different numbers of people and the city has to maintain a fair and consistent system in how it assesses development fees and mitigation.
Also on Wednesday’s HPC agenda is the redevelopment of the Bidwell building at the corner of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street. The existing two-story building is anchored by the Kemo Sabe store and has a sunken courtyard space home to the new restaurant Ryno’s.
The new building, proposed by 434 East Cooper Avenue LLC, which is under contract to purchase the property from the Bidwell family, also would be two stories tall with a basement and would not include any residential condos. It would also not include the sunken-courtyard feature.
City planning staff is recommending the developer reexamine the second-floor plan, and is concerned that a proposed 23-foot setback from Cooper Avenue, and a 20-foot setback from Galena, is too much. Aspen’s historic building format has the first and second floors come up to the lot line, forming a strong edge along the street, Aspen senior planner Sara Adams wrote in a memo.
Both projects avoid a City Council vote because they do not trigger a subdivision or growth management review.