The Aspen Valley Hospital expansion currently underway is actually less than half of the total new development that is being proposed.
As hospital officials had their first meeting with Aspen City Council on Monday about final approvals for the rest of the project, Councilman Steve Skadron took issue with what he termed as the “imposing” view the expansion’s initial phase casts on the hillside above the Highway 82 roundabout entering town.
“The mass of the building is overwhelming ... and is not something council in approving the application at that time expected,” Skadron said. He asked if anything was being done to soften the views as the project progresses.
The hospital is seeking final approval for phases three and four of the expansion. Phase one is complete and phase two is under construction. The city granted conceptual approval for the entire $150 million expansion in 2009.
Phase two encompasses about 63,000 new square feet of hospital and medical offices. It also includes a three-story parking garage and 18 units of affordable housing.
Phases three and four would be 74,440 square feet and 8,484 square feet, respectively, of new development encompassing improvements and expansions to the emergency room, radiology department and surgery unit, and a refurbished front entrance. There also would be medical offices and an ambulance bay.
Much of phase three’s square footage would be in the basement and on the side of the building that is not as visible as phase two.
Monday’s meeting was a “first reading” of the ordinance that would grant the hospital the entitlements it needs to complete the job. A public hearing on the project is scheduled for March 11, with at least two more council meetings to follow before a final vote, according to a schedule presented by city planning staff. There will be a site visit with council at the hospital on March 5 at 4 p.m.
In total, the whole project would triple the hospital’s size. Voters approved bonds and a property tax mill levy increase to pay the costs.
Responding to Skadron’s concerns, Aspen’s deputy planning director Jennifer Phelan said the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission discussed landscaping work to soften the views with hospital officials. Those issues can be vetted further in the council review process, she said.