The soon-to-be-redeveloped downtown building that voters last week passed over for city government offices appears destined for offices of another type.
A corporation controlled by Mark Hunt is applying to change a 2016 approval for the redevelopment of 517 E. Hopkins Ave. from a two-story, mixed-use building with affordable housing on top to a building that is comprised entirely of commercial space. The proposal would not change the building’s height or mass.
Hunt had offered spaces in the building’s basement, ground- and second-floor levels — everything except for three street-fronting retail units — as an alternative location for a city hall annex building. The $32.5 million price tag also included 5,300 square feet on the second floor of the building next door, where the Aspen Kitchen restaurant used to be. Voters on Nov. 6, choosing between Hunt’s proposal and a plan approved by city council in 2017 for offices on publicly owned land near the library, broke in favor of the city’s proposal by a 14-point margin. The city’s plan is estimated to cost $26.1 million to build.
Hunt received approval in August to convert his 2016 plan into city offices, but he must go back to Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board to make the space available for leasing to private tenants. Hunt will also have to provide affordable housing for 15.81 employees, which he is proposing to mitigate with affordable housing credit certificates.
The existing building, which for 25 years until 2015 was the home of the Aspen Daily News, contains commercial space on the garden, first and second floors, as well as four studio apartments on the third floor that are deed restricted as affordable housing. Tearing down the four studios means they must be replaced, amounting to a housing-mitigation bill for five employees. The additional 10.81-employee mitigation required comes from additional commercial space in the new building that will be added above existing levels.
Chris Bendon, a planning consultant with the Bendon Adams firm that is working with Hunt on the proposal, said the developer has been tracking the amount of affordable housing credits on the market and believes there will be enough to meet the required mitigation.
The credits are the byproduct of a city program that encourages developers to build affordable housing, which generates the credits that can then be sold to other developers that need affordable housing to meet city requirements.
The plan to build housing on the second floor of 517 Hopkins, where six units were proposed, created more housing than was required. The additional housing was going to generate credits for another project that didn’t go forward, Bendon said.
Plans for what’s now proposed as the second floor of 517 Hopkins show two separate commercial units, as well as a sky light.
Hunt could not be reached for comment, and Bendon said he did not know if the developer had a tenant, or perhaps another buyer, lined up for any of the space in the building. Hunt told Aspen City Council last summer that he had another occupant waiting in the wings if the city did not act.
Under the plan considered by city voters, the second floor of 517 Hopkins would be combined with the space at 204 Galena, a building developed by Hunt that opened in 2014. That could still be possible, Bendon said, since the floors are on the same level.
APCHA will take up the 517 Hopkins amendment proposal on Nov. 28, and HPC will hold its hearing on Dec. 12.
In other news, HPC on Wednesday approved the installation of a card reader on the exterior of 419 E. Hyman Ave., a Hunt-owned building on the Hyman Avenue mall that he is planning to convert into a Chase Bank branch. The card reader will allow access for customers into a lobby where an ATM machine will be located.