It will take at least two years before construction Aspen’s Lift One plan begins
The Aspen Times
The campaign screaming is over, the ballots have been cast and a decision has been rendered on the Lift One Corridor plan. Now what? Don’t expect big changes at the western base of Aspen Mountain any time soon.
Representatives of the Lift One Lodge and Gorsuch Haus said they are a couple of years away from breaking ground on their projects.
“It’s about a year to draw (final design and plans) and about a year to permit with the city,” Michael Brown, a partner in the Lift One Lodge said shortly after the election results were released Tuesday night.
“We intend to move very quickly through this,” Brown said. “We’re incredibly excited about it.”
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Jim DeFrancia, president of Lowe Enterprises, which is a partner in the Gorsuch Haus, said the hotel development team will shift its focus toward final design and approval.
“We think that’s going to take 12 to 15 months, so that puts us into mid-2020 and then we move into detailed construction design, bidding,” DeFrancia said Tuesday night. “We look to break ground in probably spring of 2021.”
In one of Aspen’s closest elections ever, voters approved the Lift One Corridor plan by 1,555 to 1,529 or a razor-thin margin of 50.4 to 49.6 percent.
That grants approvals to the 107,000-square-foot Lift One Lodge, which will add 34 fractional and six full-interest condominiums, and the 64,000-square-foot, 81-room Gorsuch Haus luxury hotel.
Brown estimated the “hard costs” for his project at $150 million.
The plan includes skiers’ services space, restaurants, bars, a ski museum and a parking garage. The total square footage is about 320,000.
Ben Anderson, a planner with the city, said Lift One Lodge and Gorsuch Haus will be treated separately for the remaining land use reviews. Within one year from Tuesday’s election, both projects are required to apply for a detailed review by the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission, he said. Lift One Lodge must also apply for a final review with the Historical Preservation Commission because of on-site historic resources.
Approvals by the boards are subject to call-up by the Aspen City Council.
“But, it is important to note that the major aspects of both projects have been established by (Tuesday’s) voter approval,” Anderson said in an email. “The detailed reviews are just that, about details — materials, windows, doors, landscaping, exterior lighting, etc. At this point, mass, scale, height, basic sight planning and internal programming — are all set.”
Once the projects complete final review and entitlement documents are recorded, the development teams can apply for their separate building permits.
City attorney Jim True said some issues not directly related to land use, such as escrow funds, will go before the council, he said.
A key part of the Lift One Corridor Plan is the replacement of Lift 1A and its extension downhill by an additional 500 feet. That will make the lift more accessible from Dean Street.
The city’s prior purchase of one-half acre from the Dolinsek family ended up being essential to making the relocation of the lower lift terminal possible. The terminal will be downslope and west of the Dolinsek land. The property will be used for skier access to the lift as they come down the mountain.
The Dolinseks have a life estate on the property. It cannot be used for skiing until no family members lives on the site, so even when the lift is constructed it is unknown when it could be used.
Once construction starts on the chairlift, Aspen Skiing Co.’s goal “will be to have the lift out of commission for as short a period as we can,” company officials said in an email in response to an inquiry from The Aspen Times.
“Most likely two seasons, but that is dependent on a number of variables with regard to other construction timelines,” Skico officials said. “There is a slim chance we could pull off the install in one season, but a lot of puzzle pieces would have to fit together for that to happen.”
The terrain on the west side of the ski area would remain open down to Summer Road, which provides access to the Little Nell terrain the Silver Queen Gondola.
“The replacement process would impact skiing on Norway as well as the lower sections of 5th Avenue, Normandy and Schuss Gully,” Skico officials said.
The company is planning for what is called a telemix or chondola, which is a combination of a chair and gondola.
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said last week no further review of the lift replacement is necessary by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency granted approval for replacement of the lift last year, when it was contemplated the lower terminal would remain in the same vicinity it is now. Fitzwilliams said it doesn’t matter to the Forest Service if the lower terminal is moved further downhill because it doesn’t affect national forest lands. Additional Forest Service review would only be triggered if Skico changed the alignment, he said.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.