A project that will redevelop a portion of the Cooper Avenue mall with a now-verboten third-story condo was approved earlier this month by the city of Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission.
Because the infill project at the Red Onion annex building conforms to the zoning in place when its development application was submitted, and it does not require a city “growth management” review, a contentious City Council hearing was avoided. A unanimous HPC approved the project on Jan. 8.
The building now has all the development approvals it needs to go forward, although construction on the site is not likely to take place this summer, according to one of the project’s owners. The approval means the developers have three years to submit for a building permit.
The one-story annex building, next door to the historic Red Onion pub going east, has been home to a poster shop most recently, although a new tenant — an eye doctor and optical shop — is preparing to move into the space.
Plans call for preserving the existing facade and ground-floor retail space, and building two floors that step back as they go up. The top two floors would house an apartment, which makes the Red Onion annex development potentially one of the last of its kind. City Council in 2012 passed zoning rules banning new free market residences in the downtown core, as well as new three-story buildings, unless they are on the north side of the street and contain hotel rooms.
The Red Onion was one of about a half dozen applications seeking a three-story building submitted in the 60 days before the new, more restrictive codes went into effect in May 2012.
Andy Hecht, a local attorney who is part of the Red Onion ownership group, said he’s not sure when the project will commence. He added that the commercial space on the ground floor is most likely to remain a retail establishment, and would not be serving food. As an owner of the building housing the Red Onion next door, he said he “wouldn’t do that” to the restaurant.
Hecht said he would be happy to coordinate construction with another pending redevelopment to the east of the annex building, but he’s not sure if that will be possible.
Next door to the annex, the building housing Kemo Sabe, Ryno’s Pies and Pints and other businesses also is subject to a pending redevelopment application. Charles Cunniffe, an architect working on the project, said the owner intends to honor existing leases in the building that go to 2016. While it would make sense to coordinate the two projects on the pedestrian mall, the timing may not work out, Cunniffe said.
Cunniffe’s project, on a site known as the Bidwell or Mountain Plaza building, is seeking a two-story, commercial-only redevelopment. It also does not require City Council review. Cunniffe said the project is likely to seek its final approval before the Historic Preservation Commission in June.