Two new restaurant spaces, a rebuilt east wing, modernized lodge rooms and a front entrance facing Dean Street are among the changes the ownership of Mountain Chalet has planned for the near 70-year-old hotel through a $100 million capital investment.
But first things first. The current ownership is scheduled to visit the Aspen Planning & Zoning Commission at its meeting on Tuesday, when they’ll be seeking the board’s OK for minor amendments to the planned development’s approvals from 2001. The city’s community development department is recommending the P&Z’s approval, according to city paperwork.
The current ownership, led by Zach Kupperman Larry McGuire, acquired the property for $68 million in March 2021 from the Melville family of Aspen, some of whose members bought a minority stake in the new partnership. McGuire said Thursday that the entire investment comes to nearly $175 million, which includes the purchase price, capital improvements and associated costs.
McGuire owns Texas-based McGuire Moorman Lambert Hospitality and Kupperman runs hotel and real estate investment firm Kupperman Cos., out of New Orleans. The upgraded Mountain Chalet could open by winter 2026, McGuire said, noting that the target date is optimistic.
“That’s tentative, but getting from here to there, getting building permits and everything else to get the building mobilized is a challenge in Aspen,” he said. “But it’s a renovation. The aspiration is to really bring a true European-style chalet to Aspen. We’ve been doing a lot of research in the Alps, in Switzerland, and spending a lot of time over there. What we’re really trying to do is build on the original vision for the chalet and something that feels authentic to Aspen but brings a European flair to it.”
The Melville family has continued to run the lodge through a management agreement with the new ownership, McGuire said.
Ralph Melville, who opened the chalet with three rooms over Christmas 1954, died in February 2016; his wife and co-owner, Marian, passed away in March.
The proposed renovation project comes with planned development entitlements from 2001, and it will not deviate from the approvals that included a maximum height of 51 feet, according to the memo.
The previous ownership saw through part of the three-phase project, “but the most significant element of the approved project left incomplete was the proposed demolition and reconstruction of the east wing of the building (increasing to four stories,” said a memo from Ben Anderson, the city’s deputy director of community development, to P&Z members ahead of next week’s meeting.
The memo noted “the addition of two restaurant spaces, the addition of a reception area on Dean Street, and the reconfiguration and updates to the lodge rooms throughout. The exterior of the building will retain its ‘chalet’ architectural character — but will be expressed in new materials and through minor changes to fenestration and balcony design.”
Chris Bendon of Aspen planning firm BendonAdams, which is working with the Mountain Chalet team, summed up much of what’s to come in an April application filed with the city.
“The property is slated for a significant rehabilitation — curing long-term deficiencies, adding and reconfiguring lodge rooms, adding publicly-accessible restaurant spaces, updating the overall look and feel of the property, upgrading lodge amenity areas, and positioning the lodge for success over the next 50 years,” the application said.
“Two restaurants are proposed for a renovated lower level. These spaces will provide high-quality guest amenity and services throughout the building as well as being open to the general public as bona fide restaurants. As seasonal conditions allow, a lower-level courtyard on the west side of the property will be available for outdoor dining. This existing space currently has minimal use. Five affordable housing units are proposed on-site to assist employee housing needs of the project.”
The proposed changes to the development include the addition of about 2,325 square feet of commercial net leasable area, most of which would be used by the restaurants; a reduction in the number of lodge rooms from 67 to 59; a reduction in the average room size from 339 square feet to 329 square feet.
The luxury rooms are small, but McGuire said the revamped Mountain Chalet will be geared toward people spending their time more outside of their rooms than inside them. There will also be communal space at the chalet, he said.
The new ownership, which also owns two restaurants in Aspen and a bakery, will run the hotel, he said.
“It’s a local group,” he said. “It’s not a big company that’s going to fly a luxury flag. We know that the development and affordability issues are complicated in Aspen. We just hope to be part of the good things in Aspen.”
Not all has been smooth sailing between the community development department and new ownership when talks about the project began over two years ago, according to the memo. That’s because of the complexities between the planned development’s vested rights and how the future project would be impacted by revised land use code regulations.
“The Mountain Chalet is a prominent building in a very visible location,” Anderson’s memo said. “It has served an important role for visitors and residents over the years and for many people, it continues to represent fond memories of Aspen’s past and of the Melville family. It is an important building and any changes need to be considered carefully.
“Because of the complex history of the property and the partially completed phasing of the 2001 PD (planned development) approval, evaluating the nature of the proposed amendment was complex. After navigating this complexity with the applicant and other City departments, the project as proposed broadly remains consistent with the 2001 PD approvals. Where new elements are proposed or new code now applies, staff believes the project meets applicable review criteria and code requirements, with the conditions as proposed.”
Rick Carroll | Aspen Daily News I August 11, 2023