A people mover up to Aspen’s Lift 1A? | VailDaily.com

A people mover up to Aspen’s Lift 1A?

Carolyn Sackariason
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” A group of 27 people shaping future development at the base of the western portion of Aspen Mountain has narrowed its vision down to a handful of scenarios.

The Lift One COWOP task force has been meeting every week since April and has agreed on several sketched-out plans that include an escalator or pedestrian mover that leads to the base of the 1A chairlift; as well as creating an auto-free road centered in the middle of two lodging developments; and a vehicle road that loops through the area, starting on Garmich Street, leading to Juan Street and then cutting through the development.

The group favors making Dean Street pedestrian-only all the way to the gondola, or perhaps using it for a trolley that would bring skiers and snowboarders to both sides of the mountain.

Ideas that have fallen by the wayside are an underground or an above-ground, cable-operated railway system taking people from the bottom of Dean Street to Lift 1A.

Also off the table is the notion of bringing Lift 1A down to Dean Street, where Lift One originated in 1946. Creating opportunities for repeat skiing farther into town was a driving force in creating a master plan for the area, near the base of Shadow Mountain.

The next steps for the task force, which only has another two months before it’s expected to make a recommendation to the City Council, is to have Poss Architecture design a few different scenarios with the popular elements incorporated.

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How those functions serve the area, as well as how much they will cost and who will pay for the amenities will then be addressed by economic consultants, a design team and other experts.

In order to bring in more expertise, the task force’s original $135,000 budget has increased by $200,000. The costs are being split four ways, with the city of Aspen’s share of the increase at $50,000, according to Chris Bendon, City Hall’s community development director. The City Council has not yet approved the additional expenditure.

The task force convened after it was apparent that two land-use applications for large lodging properties on the eight-acre area would likely get voted down by the Aspen City Council without some sort of smart growth plan in place.

The group is the driving force in creating a comprehensive development program for the ski area’s base, which sees only 3 percent of visitors using that side of the mountain as a portal. The rest use the Silver Queen Gondola to get up the mountain.

The end result will be a blueprint of what kind of lodging, affordable housing, community and skier amenities, and other development aspects will be in the historic Lift One neighborhood ” the original portal to Aspen Mountain.

The group has thrown just about every idea at the wall to see what would stick. The process has been designed to be unfiltered and transparent to let creative thinking drive the possibilities, Bendon said.

Other concepts include skiing down the center between the two the lodges; using the historic buildings in the area for ticket offices and other mountain base functions, as well as putting most of the affordable housing off-site and having a minimal amount on-site to accommodate employees who would operate the properties. An underground parking garage also is being discussed as a potential solution for the area.

One of the last areas to be redeveloped in town, there are four major landowners at the base, including the Aspen Skiing Co., the city of Aspen and Centurion Partners, which owns the property where the Mine Dump Apartments used to be on South Aspen Street. Across the street, David Wilhelm, Jim Light and Jim Chaffin own the property where the defunct Holland House and Skiers Chalet lodges are located.

Those developers, represented by Bob Daniel, were proposing the 114,000-square-foot Lift One Lodge below Lift 1A. That application has since been pulled while the task force does its work.

It’s hoped that the task force’s recommendation will serve as the land-use application that will be reviewed and voted on by the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission and the City Council.

“We remain optimistic that something will come out of this,” Daniel told the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors Tuesday during a presentation made by Bendon. Daniel added that he has never seen a process work as well as this task force has and said he appreciates the city government’s commitment to finding a solution.