The new housing development on the Lumberyard site in the AABC will likely contain a fairly even mix of rental and ownership units, with a majority having one and two bedrooms, and an associated child care center.
Beyond that, Aspen City Council members spoke in circles for five hours Monday night as they worked to home in on a conceptual design to move the project ahead, with a goal of breaking ground in 2024.
Chris Everson, affordable housing development senior project manager, told council their feedback was so all over the map that it might be time to reassess the entire design process.
“I don’t see how we can coalesce what we heard today,” Everson said.
The council was responding to a design concept honed by a year's worth of public work sessions and three large community outreach programs. Everson said the design presented is a direct result of public input, but if council is dissatisfied with the pitch, the private sector could be consulted as well.
“If we can’t rely on the community outreach received to date, then it might be a good idea to go out and see some alternatives,” he said.
At press time, Everson was explaining to the council what pulling in private partners might look like in order to move the project forward with additional funding on a faster timeline.
Mayor Torre pushed back on those frustrations, saying for the most part the majority of council is in line with the broad concepts and supportive of moving the project forward.
“There is so much good work that is in this, I don't see us trashing it and walking away from it,” he said.
Councilmember Ward Hauenstein said he empathized with Everson, but that it is now up to the council to make hard decisions on the trade offs that go into a large scale public housing facility.
“Community feedback is not the only thing we use to make a final determination,” he said. “We’ve got to keep going forward.”
The most up-to-date concept is a reflection of a survey presented to the public this fall and a work session with council last month, wherein the concept of co-living was struck down, underground parking was encouraged, and the council gave its blessing for the apartment buildings to be up to four stories in order to increase the number of locals that could be housed on site. To accommodate those requests, the project gained 10 units and is settling at just under 350 units.
The council took issue with the orientation of the buildings, both in the relation to access to sunlight for individual units and out of concern for the noise coming from the adjoining Highway 82 and Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
They also differed in their support for common and private open spaces, and the eventual income categories that the project might serve.
Councilmember Skippy Mesirow said that he would prefer to identify potential residents before moving too far into the process. He said some of the ambiguity in council direction comes from wanting to build a neighborhood that would be all things to all people.
“We are giving some very confusing advice right now,” Mesirow said. “We haven’t identified some very basic questions about intention, purpose and audience for this project.”
Torre maintained that the council agreed on the majority of the high-level concepts about the mass, density and use of the buildings, and that further refinement will inherently lead to a clearer direction.
“These are the really big building blocks that the council thinks about,” he said.” These all intersect for me when you start talking about these concepts. This is where it all starts coming together.”