New design opens access to the lift, improves sightlines and pulls building back from Norway

Aspen, Colo. — The Gorsuch Haus design team returns to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 16 with several changes in design that are meant to directly address issues raised by the P&Z commissioners and the community.

“This is our third major redesign in the last year and a half,” says Bryan Peterson, one of the partners in Norway Island LLC, the company that is proposing an 81-key hotel at the base of Lift 1A. “We’ve made each change after receiving input from neighboring property owners and the community at large. We really want to make this work.”

Peterson and retailer Jeff Gorsuch first began work on the hotel concept in 2013. Last year they brought in Lowe Enterprises as a development partner. The project has been designed by Denver’s 4240 Architecture and Design Workshop of Aspen.

The biggest issues addressed include:

1.     The northeast section of the building, often referred to as the “knuckle,” has been removed. This opens up more direct access from the top of South Aspen Street to the lift loading area. It also opens up the sight line up the historic Lift 1 corridor from Dean Street to the mountain. This also creates a more open skier return to town.

2.     The section on the western side of the building that was closest to Norway run has been pulled back to the east, so that it is now considerably farther away from the ski run.

3.     The grading on the eastern side of the ski return, adjacent to the Caribou Lodge, has been reconfigured to preserve trees. Only one tree will be removed with the new proposed design, rather than the eight that were going to be removed in the previous design.

4.     The total footprint of the hotel has also been reduced by creation of a large porte cochere over the traffic circle. There is hotel space above the traffic circle as part of the porte cochere. The revised footprint improves site lines both from town and various parts of the neighborhood. By increasing the size of the arrival area, this change also creates more public space and improved access to the mountain.

5.     The loading area for Lift 1A in the new design is closer to the existing lift’s loading area. The new design vastly improves the accessibility of the lift, even if it is a bit upslope from the current lift.  Coming from the Aspen Street turnaround, people will walk up a wide, ski-boot friendly walkway that rises just 16 feet from the street to the loading maze. There is also greatly improved access from Summit Street, which connects directly to Monarch Street and all the condominiums and hotel rooms to the east. Summit street access is currently limited.

Some other details about the new design:

1.     The average height of the building has come down from 37.1 feet to 36.2 feet. The highest point in the building remains 49 feet, before allowances for elevator equipment. The building is two and three stories in some areas, four stories in others and is no higher than the previous submittal.

2.     The hotel’s front desk, restaurant, bar, and lobby have been consolidated to a spot adjacent to the skier plaza, creating a more welcoming and centralized area to serve the public and hotel guests near the entrance.

3.     There are still 81 keys. The room count was maintained by moving the restaurant from the south end of Gorsuch Haus to the northeast area. Rooms were relocated to the former proposed location of the restaurant. Rooms were also moved to areas previously needed for public circulation.

4.     The turnaround circle was expanded to 50 feet in diameter, with additional space for pedestrian circulation and drop offs. This is in line with the request by the city of Aspen. To achieve this, the porte cochere was added over the turnaround, and the bottom two stories in that section of the building were removed.

“Brian, Jim and I, and the entire Gorsuch Haus team will continue to respond to community input as the project advances through the review process,” says Gorsuch.

Jim DeFrancia, the Lowe Enterprises partner who has been presenting the project to the Planning and Zoning Commission, says the redesign achieves multiple purposes.

“It greatly opens up access to Lift 1A, preserves historic site lines and ensures that Norway run is not affected by the building,” DeFrancia says. “It addresses issues raised by the neighboring properties. It also creates a more efficient building — in terms of utilization of space—on a smaller overall footprint.”

DeFrancia says the new design is a better fit for the neighborhood, where there is considerable redevelopment under way, with more expected in the next few years. Currently, on the west side of Aspen Street, there are 14 luxury townhomes and a 17-unit affordable housing complex under construction. The property immediately below the proposed site for Gorsuch Haus has approval for a 76,000 square foot fractional condominium project. The surrounding properties are primarily large condominium complexes.

“A hotbed hotel at the top of Aspen will complement the mix of private residences and fractional rooms that are already in place or going to be built,” DeFrancia says. 


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