The owner of three vacant parcels on South Aspen Street has re-applied to build townhomes and affordable housing on the land, following the demise of a proposal for a new hotel and condominium development.
ASV Aspen Street Owner, tied to Boston and Chicago investors and through local representatives Bald Mountain Development, submitted an application to City Hall last week that would amend a 2003 approval for 14 townhomes and 17 affordable housing units.
Much like a proposal the group brought forward in October 2011, 16 months after buying the property, the new plan seeks to move some of the affordable housing to a different location, decreasing the amount of development on the site.
But unlike the October 2011 iteration of the plan — which was set aside while the developers and the city discussed a lodging proposal — the off-site location for the affordable housing would be in town, or provided through affordable housing credit certificates. Previously, the developers sought to build eight units at the Aspen Airport Business Center, while leaving 10 on the South Aspen Street site.
Recently, an entity tied to Bald Mountain Development went under contract to purchase the building at 404 Park Ave., which was part of the now-defunct Aspen Walk project. That building, and the adjacent property at 414 Park Circle — which both house working locals — were to be redeveloped into affordable housing and condos, but the previous Minnesota developers found themselves in foreclosure. Bald Mountain representatives could not be reached for comment on the future of the Park Avenue site, but it could serve as the place for additional affordable housing tied to the South Aspen Street project.
The new townhomes applications also could be built in phases, with the first phase on the lower portion of the site. The initial construction would consist of five three-bedroom free-market condos and 10 affordable housing units, comprised of two two-bedrooms and eight one-bedrooms. A second phase would consist of nine three-bedroom free-market units.
Altogether, the new South Aspen Street application would see 46,170 square feet built on the site, as opposed to 73,381 square feet with the 2003 plan, according to the application.
The 10 affordable units on site would provide housing for 18.5 full-time employees, based on Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority calculations. According to the application, the developer is committing to house the equivalent of 27.5 people off site either through housing credit certificates or new housing built east of the entrance to Aspen.
Housing credit certificates are tied to private developers who build affordable housing on their own, but then sell the credits, which other developers can purchase to offset their housing requirements. Only one such project, built by local developer Peter Fornell, has been completed, but others are in construction or planning stages.
The land on South Aspen Street, located near the base of Lift 1A, has long been seen as the last viable place in town for a large new hotel to be built. After granting the 2003 approval for townhomes on the site — which developers have always seen as fall-back option — the city lobbied for a hotel plan instead. A proposal for a development known as the Lodge at Aspen Mountain followed, but it was twice rejected by City Council. The developers, Centurion Partners of Newport Beach, Calif., were working on a third version when they went into bankruptcy in 2009. ASV Aspen Street owner initially concluded after buying the land in March 2010 that it could not build a financially viable hotel, and sought to amend the townhomes application. But after an initially chilly reception from the city, the developers began negotiations on a hotel.
In November, Bald Mountain principal David Parker informed Aspen City Council that the lodge proposal his group had been working on was not likely to pass city muster. Prior to that, Parker had sketched out a development that consisted of around 84,000 square feet of new lodging rooms, and 86,000 square feet of free-market condos. But after further analysis, he said the lodging and condo components would have to be even bigger to be financially viable — in the neighborhood of six stories and 80 feet tall.
The developers could not make a lodging plan work without “requiring fee waivers and zoning variances that would be in excess not only of what the city could likely approve, but also of what the applicant was willing to request that the citizens of Aspen accept,” planning consultant Mitch Haas wrote in the application for the new townhomes project.