LIft one

Remnants of the historic Lift One, which opened in 1946, mark the ski corridor that would be redeveloped with two new hotels and a new chairlift coming farther down the hill under a plan approved by voters last year. City officials recently approved a key deadline extension for the project as developers who previously had cold feet have come back to the table.

The Lift One Lodge’s “misgivings over the cooperative nature” of the historic plan to redevelop Aspen Mountain’s western ski area portal have eased and its representatives are telling city hall they are actively working on bringing the project approved by voters last year to fruition.

But in order for the project to stay on track, the developers of the Lift One Lodge in late October asked the city of Aspen’s community development department for a 180-day extension of the deadline to file a final land-use application, which was to be due on March 5. That application firms up the engineering and site planning details laid out in plans that Aspen City Council referred to voters in the March 2019 election.

The city’s planning office approved the request on Christmas Eve, meaning the Lift One Lodge has until Sept. 1 to file a final application that will also spell out extensive refurbishment of city parks in the neighborhood.

“It was important that the applicant and city be afforded sufficient time to address tthe complex, multi-party engineering requirements of the site,” Community Development Director Phillip Supino wrote in an email.

Ben Anderson, a city planner working on the case, added that “all parties are in agreement that the complexity of engineering design and coordination across the corridor is significant, if not unprecedented in recent Aspen development history.”

That all parties are on the same page represents progress for the development since last summer, when Lift One Lodge representatives told the city that they are backing away from the voter approved project and instead focusing on a different plan from 2011. That plan lacks a new chairlift to replace Lift 1A starting farther into the core of town near Dean Street.

According to an Oct. 29 letter requesting the deadline extension from Stan Clauson, a planning consultant working for Lift One Lodge, his group came back to the table in the fall after “participation in the project was deferred owing to concerns relating to the cooperative nature of the project.” Those concerns “were exacerbated by the sale process commenced by the Gorsuch Haus project this past spring.” That process “at least for now, appears to have ceased, having existing partners in control.”

“Our client now believes these concerns may be subject to a resolution in the near future,” Clauson’s letter says.

The letter said that the group had been working together again since late September.

Regardless of any delay related to that deferral, the complexity of the engineering studies and plans required by final approval and the multifaceted nature of the project would prevent a final application for Lift One Lodge and the city parks component, which is proceeding along with the Lift One Lodge, to be complete by March 5, Clauson’s letter says.

One firm is working on the Gorsuch, Lift One and city parks projects on engineering, debris flow and stormwater management analyses for the project that crosses multiple property lines. That firm, Sopris Engineering, needs more time to complete that work, according to the Lift One Lodge and the city’s planning office.

The city’s approval of the deadline extension and the Gorsuch Haus’ assent to the extended schedule was reliant on a “milestone plan” to get the project to the Sept. 1 final application deadline, Anderson noted in an email.

Gorsuch Haus will still work within the March 5 deadline to file, Anderson said. It is the city’s intention that the consolidated project will proceed through final review hearings concurrently in fall 2020, he said. Gorsuch Haus will be reviewed by P&Z. Lift One Lodge and city parks applications will be reviewed by both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission. All approvals would be subject to call-up by city council.

The site consists of the east side of South Aspen Street, starting at Dean and extending to the existing Lift 1A chairlift. The plan calls for the site to be redeveloped with two new lodges bringing some 180 new keys, plus new restaurants, commercial space and parking. A new chairlift to replace 1A built by Aspen Skiing Co. would come 500 feet farther down the hill into the core of town, accessed by a mountain portal including a ski history museum in a renovated Skiers Chalet lodge. The plan would also see the historic lift infrastructure from Lift One refurbished and presented as part of the experience. Multiple city parks including land that was the site of Aspen’s first chairlift, and still-to-be-constructed new park on donated land, would be mixed into the site.

Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at curtis@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.