Aspen government officials want to meet new development partner in Lift One project

Stakeholder meeting with city, Lift One Lodge, Skico, historical society and newest member, the OKO Group, scheduled for today

City officials would like the new owners of a piece of land at the base of Aspen Mountain that’s part of the voter-approved Lift One corridor project to participate in a second quarter stakeholder meeting scheduled for Monday.

But representatives from the Miami-based OKO Group, a real estate development firm founded and headed by billionaire Vladislav Doronin that bought almost an acre of land last month for $76.25 million, will not be present as far as Jen Phelan, the city’s project manager, knows.

“I think it would be great to get ownership representation involved at least for introductions,” Phelan said.

Instead, the OKO Group has hired the local land-use consulting firm BendonAdams, and Sara Adams will represent their interests.

The Aspen Times received no response from OKO Group’s public relations representatives via email seeking information on their local involvement in the planning of the project, which includes the 81-room hotel known as Gorsuch Haus on the land the OKO Group owns.

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The Lift One corridor also includes the 107,000-square-foot Lift One Lodge and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side.

Monday’s meeting will cover certain aspects of the development, including updates to a required traffic study, sequencing of construction, land-use entitlement updates and the recording of plats.

Phelan said the previous owners of the 0.95 acres on Aspen Mountain’s western base area — Bryan Peterson, Jim DeFrancia and Jeff Gorsuch — informed the stakeholder group in November that the property could transfer to new ownership.

“They made us aware that they were receiving unsolicited offers for the purchase of the property,” Phelan said.

Gorsuch and his partners pushed their local ties to the community when convincing voters in March 2019 by a margin of 26 votes to approve the ordinances referred by Aspen City Council that allow the development.

City staff is still operating within the parameters of those voter-approved ordinances.

“The allowances and limitations of the approvals in place transfer to the new purchaser, and staff expects the new owner to perform under the same conditions and responsibilities as the previous owner group,” Phelan said.

Monday’s meeting is a routine check-in with all the stakeholders, which includes Michael and Aaron Brown, representing Lift One Lodge, along with the city, the Aspen Historical Society, the Aspen Skiing Co. and OKO Group.

Lift One Lodge is continuing to work toward perfecting its land use entitlements, which include agreements and plats that are more complex than those of Gorsuch Haus, because the city, Skico and the historical society are involved in the future development and operations that will occur on the lots, according to Phelan.

The city allocated $4.36 million to help pay for improvements to Dean Street and the relocation of the Skiers Chalet Lodge, where a ski history museum and skier services are planned.

Phelan said she is working with Lift One representatives on a parking management agreement for the parking garage the developers are building that will be accessed off Dean Street and will be partially located on city property, under Willoughby Park.

The garage will contain both off-street parking for the lodge, as well as a public parking component, according to Phelan.

The approval ordinance includes the requirement for Lift One Lodge to provide 50 public parking spaces and enter into an agreement that has to be approved by the city.

In developing a fee schedule, city staff and Lift One Lodge have gone back and forth on a parking rate structure, with the Browns proposing a higher rate structure than the city was comfortable with.

Phelan said she is currently waiting to see how the city’s alternative pricing is received.

The city proposes a fee structure in line with parking rates at other ski area parking lots, with Highlands being the most relevant, and also includes premium pricing that recognizes the location of the garage at the foot of a new telemix chairlift.

Instead of Lift One Lodge’s $12 an hour, or $60 a day, during weekends and holidays in the high season months, the city is proposing $8.40 an hour or $42 a day.

Weekdays and nonholidays in high season months would be $6 an hour, or $30 a day under the city’s proposal. Lift One Lodge had proposed $9 an hour or $45 a day.

It’s unknown when construction will begin on the project, but it will likely be in the next year, as vesting rights on the development expire on Dec. 24, 2025.


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