Owner Asks to Convert Downtown Aspen Building to Offices with Ice Baths, Massages, Nutrient IVs for Workers

Owner Asks to Convert Downtown Aspen Building to Offices with Ice Baths, Massages, Nutrient IVs for Workers

Developer Mark Hunt, owner of 517 E. Hopkins, wanted the Historic Preservation Commission to envision an unusual workplace inside the building. Workers at their desks could be hooked up to IVs feeding them nutrients into their arms. If a worker needed to de-stress after Zooming with a difficult client, he could climb into an ice bath or have a deep tissue massage at work.

The amenities would be provided by Remedy Place whose CEO, Dr. Jonathan Leary, insists that he never uses the words “luxury spa” to describe the concept. He calls it a shared workplace with wellness services. Leary is a chiropractor who has Remedy Place wellness clubs in West Hollywood as well as New York City.

But in a lengthy August memo, Aspen planning director Amy Simon refers to Remedy Place as luxury spa, not the affordable shared workspace Hunt wanted to deliver years ago. The website for Remedy Place in New York City as detailing spa services ranging in price from $595 to $2,750. It doesn’t mention whether it offers scanners, whiteboards, laser pointers, or WiFi. Leary responded that his concept had evolved past a wellness club when he discovered that Remedy Place members were discussing work and networking when they visited for treatments.

Back in 2018, Hunt proposed adding affordable shared office space inside his building similar to the then-trailblazing WeWork. But when the pandemic made remote work necessary for many offices, WeWork was hit hard. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that WeWork’s investors were struggling to find a way to head off WeWork’s bankruptcy.

Leary made the points that WeWork may be an outdated concept and employers are finding it takes more than free coffee to lure workers back into an office.

Attendees agreed that action was needed to improve the building site. One attendee described the building’s appearance as so “horrible,” he felt compelled to close one eye when he walked past it. And there was a consensus that the building should provide a benefit to the Aspen community, whether that was a wellness workplace or something else.

There have been different proposals for what to do with the building over the years. Back in 2016, HPC approved a plan to demolish the structure and replace it with a building that could lease retail spaces in the basement and first floor with affordable housing on the second floor. Then in August 2018, HPC approved a plan to use most of the building that would be constructed there for city offices, serving as an annex to Armory city offices. Voters rejected that concept in November.

That December, the memo says Hunt asked HPC to approve “conversion of the second floor of the building from all affordable housing units to all free-market commercial use, specifically a co-work business.”

HPC approved the concept against the recommendations of staff and APCHA because co-work space met one of city council’s goals of providing affordable downtown workspaces. The workspace operator could offer workers delis, café, a bar, health and fitness classes. HPC noted at that time, there was a shortage of affordable office space.

That situation has changed since then with several shared workspaces now available in Aspen. Simon’s memo says that proposal referenced HanaHaus as a model for shared workspace. HanaHaus at the time offered hourly rates starting at $4.

There was a discussion of what would happen if the wellness services weren’t enough to get workers into the proposed office space. But HPC members did not agree on whether Leary and Hunt should be allowed to use vacant workspace for other purposes.

Although the Hopkins Avenue building is not historic, HPC has oversight because it is located in Aspen’s historic district.

Simon said the discussion would continue at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 13


Lynda Edwards | The Aspen Times | August 28, 2023

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