Mark Hunt’s grand plan partially revealed
by Carolyn Sackariason, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Hunt — a developer who came from Chicago and over the last three years has purchased at least 13 buildings downtown and has invested more than $100 million in those properties — was approached earlier this year by city officials. They asked him to consider providing “affordable” lodges because of their concern that there is a dearth of mid-priced accommodations in the resort community; the average daily room rate in Aspen during high season is around $400.
“The city asked me to pursue affordable lodging because there is opportunity based on the number of properties I own,” he said, adding that he designed the retail buildings to fit into Aspen’s small-town character in terms of mass and scale, and characterized them as “moderate” sized structures.
Both lodges, called “Base 1” and “Base 2,” are planned for 730 E. Cooper Ave. (the Buckhorn Arms building housing Domino’s and Johnny McGuire’s) and 232 E. Main St. (the Conoco station at Main and Mill streets), respectively.
They would each contain about 50 rooms on two floors, and have commercial components like bars and restaurants on the street level, according to the renderings on file at City Hall.
The design of the Base 1 lodge, according to a Sept. 9 written description by Hunt to the HPC, is inspired from mining history and seeks to evoke “the honest construction and material make-up of the rugged and purely functional mining rig structure.” Its architecture would incorporate aged steel columns and beams, with large clear panes of glass in between to provide open views.
Base 2 pays homage to mountain chalet-style architecture, with a pitched roof and a “neighborhood friendly building,” according to Hunt’s plans.
The lodge rooms in both properties would be “pod” style, providing bunk beds in some of them, based on the renderings. A bowling alley is planned in the basement of one with a rooftop patio with a possible movie screen at the other, according to the renderings.
The 517 E. Hopkins Ave. parcel (the Aspen Daily News building) has a design “respectful” of the street, “and continues the architectural dialogue created by the new 515 building” (housing Lululemon Athletica, Theory and Dolce & Gabbana), according to Hunt’s written description.
The three facades are each 30 feet wide in keeping with much of the city grid, according to the description. The new structures would be pulled forward to hold the sidewalk line. The facades are designed to be “approachable, recognizable and natural” materials in an effort to create “visual interest along Hopkins and provide each future tenant with an identity,” according to Hunt’s written description.
The plan for the Crystal Palace building on Hyman Avenue is to restore the iconic historic structure and create a new addition, “which architecturally speaks to ‘new’ Aspen while complimenting the ‘old’ Aspen of Crystal Palace,” according to Hunt’s description. He also owns the building next to the Crystal Palace and that would be included in the two-level retail space. It would have a rooftop patio to bridge the old with the new, according to the description.
The 411 E. Hyman Ave. building (housing Magasin) would be designed as an infill retail storefront, with a “simple, elegant and somewhat whimsical finely detailed masonry storefront,” according to the written description, which also says the proposed design incorporates a retractable awning. The rendering shows that it could be a bakery. The 411 E. Hyman Ave. building is in the middle of three adjacent properties owned by Hunt, which also include Crazy Shirt and New York Pizza. His plans do not envision tearing any of the three structures down.
Simon said the Hopkins Avenue building proposal is below the city’s maximum height limit. The lodges would be around 35 feet tall.
She said none of the proposals are actual land-use applications. They are concepts that Hunt wants feedback on, to determine whether there is enough support in the community and from city officials to continue moving forward. Hunt is not required to have a work session but requested one to present the projects in context.
“I think they are all projects that have a lot of thought behind them,” Simon said. “They are interesting projects and a good start.”
The Crystal Palace is the only historically-designated building in the group, which will require a more extensive review by the HPC, Simon said. However, there have been a lot of changes to the original building, she added. Hunt met earlier this year with the HPC concerning the Crystal Palace building, Simon said.
And because the proposed project involves two separate lots, a subdivision is required, which kicks it up to Aspen City Council for review.
The lodges also will go before other boards besides HPC, possibly the Planning and Zoning Commission and council, Simon said.