Lift One development plan at base of Aspen Mountain could get timed out
As the parties responsible for the biggest development in Aspen in decades remain estranged, the clock is ticking to keep the voter-approved Lift One Corridor plan alive.
Developers of Lift One Lodge, a timeshare property, and Gorsuch Haus, a luxury hotel, have been preparing for detailed review approvals, which are due no later than March.
That is one year from the March 5 election, when Aspen voters approved roughly 320,000 square feet of lodge and commercial space at the western base of Aspen Mountain.
While the Gorsuch team continues to work on plans for detailed review to gain approval from the city Planning and Zoning Commission, the Lift One Lodge contingency has walked away from the overall development plan and is going back to its previous entitlements for a timeshare lodge.
That 2011 approval, which was amended in 2016 for more commercial space, includes roughly 100,000 square feet with 22 timeshares and five residential condos, along with a ski museum.
It also includes 100% housing mitigation, which is for 91 full-time employees, said Ben Anderson, a planner for the city of Aspen.
Under the voter-approved plan, both lodges received breaks on affordable housing by relying on incentives in the land-use code. Between the two projects, a total of 67 employees would have been housed.
Lift One Lodge developers Aaron and Michael Brown sent a letter to the city earlier this month informing the government that they are walking away from combined development because they no longer have confidence in the Gorsuch Haus group.
Specifically, they are concerned that because Jeff Gorsuch and his partners are marketing the 81-room luxury hotel for sale in a recapitalizing effort, there is no assurance that a new chairlift will get built.
“We have no way of knowing who the buyer will be, when or whether a sale will close, or whether the new owner will share Lift One Lodge’s level of commitment to the project,” the letter reads.
The Gorsuch team wrote a letter to the city in response, saying they are “ready, willing and able to follow through and complete the new Lift 1 base entitlements.”
Neither Michael Brown nor Gorsuch returned calls last week seeking comment.
Jim DeFrancia, principal of Lowe Enterprises and a partner with the Gorsuch team, said he is still in the deal.
“We are quietly trying to help sort out the miscommunication and misunderstandings,” he said Friday. “We are trying to put their concerns at ease and get things back on track.”
The window is getting shorter in doing that if the Browns do come back to the table.
“It’s a significant amount of work,” Anderson said of the preparation for detailed review. “Before we got the letter, we anticipated an application by the first of the year.”
In passing the question, 1,555 voters also blessed a skiers’ services space, restaurants, bars, a ski museum and a parking garage, along with a new chairlift coming 500 feet farther down the hill to Dean Street.
The city’s $4.36 million contribution to the project must be deposited in an escrow account by Dec. 31, said City Attorney Jim True, who discussed the imploded deal with City Council in executive session last week.
There is no position that the city is taking on the matter and officials are waiting to see where the chips will fall.
If the Browns continue on with their previous entitlements, they have until November 2021 to submit a building application. That’s when their vested rights expire.