We are a group of homeowners who learned in the fall of 2020 that a major Aspen developer, represented by local real estate consulting firm, BendonAdams, purchased a historic home that he intended to redevelop into a small multi-unit affordable housing complex. When the developer presented his plan to us, we were pleased because we all support our eclectic and diverse neighborhood that is enriched by people of all income and age groups, and their plan to renovate the historic cabin clearly supported our link to Aspen’s storied past.
However, when we saw the renderings for what was actually being proposed for the city to approve, we were shocked to discover that it was nothing at all like what we had been led to believe. The new building was massive, dwarfing the historic cabin which had been pushed forward on the lot near the sidewalk, to make room for the enormous new building.The developer’s plan proposed a 5,000 square foot structure on an historic lot of little more than 4,000 square feet. Fortunately, the plan was rightly rejected twice by Aspen Historic Preservation Commission in 3-to-1 decisions because its mass and scale widely exceeded HPC’s own guidelines. In the January meeting, an official vote was not taken so that the plan could be sent back to the developer and BendonAdams for revisions. At the final HPC meeting in February, citizens were appalled at the lack of revisions made to the plans by the 1020 Project Team but were gratified when the Historic Preservation Commissioners ultimately again rejected the proposal.
The developer then appealed the decision to City Council on the grounds that the project met code (it doesn't) by not requiring variances, and that it was recommended for approval by city staff and supported Aspen’s desire for more affordable housing. City Council will hear the appeal and legal briefs at a Special Meeting, closed to public comment, on April 19, 2021.
From the beginning, neighborhood concerns about the 1020 E. Cooper Ave. Project have been characterized as driven by NIMBY, “elitist” and “bigoted” neighbors and the press took up the hue and cry without ever talking to any neighborhood residents. It’s been a one-sided story. In fact, we had much larger concerns than were reported by the local newspapers and were mystified by the mischaracterization of our motives and the lack of any press interest in the development teams’ motivations.
We began digging into the actual facts and what we found should concern every Aspen citizen, worker and homeowner. And so, in light of BendonAdams’ newly proposed change to Aspen’s Land Use Code for Residential Multi-Family (RMF/RMFA) lots smaller than 6,000 square feet, that would allow large multi-unit complexes to be developed on these 24+ small lots, 9 of which are historic, we have come to understand that this proposed “rehab” of the historic 1020 E. Cooper property is likely the tip of a looming iceberg threatening the foundation of Aspen as a truly magical and unique place.
The facts clearly demonstrate an urgent need for the public to be informed of what’s been happening and what will happen so that we can collectively avert a potential disaster for the special and historic character of our beloved Aspen. This is why we have formed Save Aspen, a not-for-profit organization devoted to opposing BendonAdams’ proposed code change to be heard by Aspen Planning & Zoning Commission on April 20, 2021. A mix of architecture is a large part of what sets Aspen apart from other mountain “ski towns”. It’s an authentic town, with a history and culture all its own.
We have all heard the wisdom that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It is also true that those who don’t preserve history are doomed to lose it.