The old Boomerang Lodge property eyed as a residential component of the “Aspen ecosystem” collaboration between developer Mark Hunt and luxury-furnishings titan RH has attracted the city’s attention because of its deteriorating state.
City officials have been actively formalizing a process that could lead to their issuing the Hunt team a “demolition-by-neglect” notification by Tuesday.
The action is being taken, city officials said, because the property’s condition is worsening and little to nothing is being done by the Hunt team to improve the situation.
Located at 500 W. Hopkins Ave., the Boomerang property was acquired by Fourth and Hopkins LLC, an entity controlled by Hunt, for $10 million in 2018. The property has been dormant since then, as it has since most of the Boomerang Lodge, one of Aspen’s original ski hotels, was demolished in 2007. However, the lodge’s original entrance wing and outdoor pool deck were designated as historic in 2006 and remain standing.
Hunt, who controls at least 21 properties according to a city of Aspen count in and around downtown Aspen, announced in 2021 that he was partnering with RH, a California-based brand formerly known as Restoration Hardware, on the creation of an “Aspen ecosystem” with retail, restaurant and gallery space, a luxury boutique hotel and spa, and residential locations. The future Boomerang property development, dubbed the “RH Residences at the Historic Boomerang Lodge,” and a mansion on Red Mountain are the “ecosystem’s” residential components.
Hunt said the plan remains to build residential on the Boomerang property, whether that is through two detached duplexes and one single-family home, or other scenarios, he said.
Hunt said that if the historic portion of the property were converted to a residential building, “it's possible to have five (residences built) ... but we're not fully vetted on that.”
The property is zoned R-6, which means it allows for medium-density residential development and at least one duplex. Any project involving the property’s historic resource, what is left of the Boomerang Lodge, would be subject to a land-use review.
While the Hunt team has been responsive to minor Boomerang fixes in the past, “It has gotten to the point where it is more extensive than a short list, or a punch list,” city Planning Director Amy Simon said at a June 28 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission. “We’re concerned.”
The HPC voted 5-0 at the meeting to approve a petition that would allow Aspen Chief Building Official Bonnie Muhigirwa to organize a comprehensive list of property deficiencies that need to be remedied. Muhigirwa has until Tuesday to file the paperwork that would be part of a demolition-by-neglect process set out in the land-use code to protect historic properties. Simon brought the petition to the HPC after a city site visit to the Boomerang property in March showed ample building deficiencies.
The petition approved by the HPC said the demolition-by-neglect action being taken was “due to concerns that various forces, including water infiltration, are causing deterioration of the building foundation, board formed concrete walls, and framed elements such as roofs and decks. Exterior finishes are peeling, spalling and otherwise detaching from substrate. Windows are broken and holes are visible at various locations. Based on commentary by a property representative, the site is inadequately secured from trespassers who have entered the building. The chief building official is asked to pursue immediate action to correct this failure to maintain the property.”
The HPC petition triggered another site inspection by city officials in July, the second time this year they examined the property. A building engineer hired by the city participated in the visit and compiled a report, which will be included in the demolition-by-neglect notice if it is filed, city officials said. The report’s findings were not publicly available last week.
Hunt said on Thursday that he has been aware of the city’s concerns but did not realize their magnitude. He contended that property is in better condition than how it has been characterized in city reports.
“We take the building seriously and do not ignore any requests from the city,” said Hunt, who was present at the March site visit. “We worked with them to assess the property and will address their list when we receive it.”
A memo from Simon to the HPC ahead of the June 28 meeting said the city has received complaints about the state of the property.
“Since the lodge use was abandoned, community development has visited the property, with the cooperation of the owners, to ensure that the structure is secured and compliant with the established standards for reasonable care and upkeep of a historic structure,” the memo said. “Formal site visits were conducted by the historic preservation officer and chief building official in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2022 and 2023. In addition, observation from the street has occurred throughout this period. At various times, the chief building official has requested repairs to spalling concrete, loose connections between non-structural elements of the exterior decks, installation of temporary supports at areas of concern and a dedicated effort to keep the site clear of debris and secured. Regular complaints about the appearance of the property have been made to the city.”
According to Simon, the city has taken demolition-by-neglect action against two historic properties that she knows of in the past.
“This is a fairly standard provision in a historic preservation ordinance,” she said at the June meeting, “where we want to ensure minimum maintenance and care of properties that have been designated historic, because we’re of course hoping to carry them forward into the future, and (because) people have to come before this board and ask for alterations to the building, we cannot allow the process to be circumvented by allowing the resource to deteriorate beyond repair and be lost. So this provision in our code is called ‘demolition by neglect.’”
HPC members agreed with a 5-0 vote.
Rick Carroll | Aspen Daily News I August 14, 2023