Tenants of the Skier’s Chalet Lodge in Aspen received notices from a Lift One Lodge Aspen email on Thursday that their leases will end on August 31, marking an end to one of the town’s last remaining “ski bum” complexes.
The historic building near the base of Aspen Mountain houses 15 tenants in 11 rooms renting for $750 a month, according to longtime tenant and property manager J.F. Bruegger.
Howard Awrey built the chalet in 1965. It operated as a hotel until 2005, and sold in 2006 to investors who were pursuing redevelopment of the Lift One Corridor on South Aspen Street. The new owners decided to rent the rooms as studio-style apartments when the redevelopment project did not yet have a “firm timetable,” according to Powder Magazine.
Tenants stayed when the building sold again in 2015 to its current owner, Lift One Lodge Aspen LLC, linked to the Aspen-based real estate investment firm HayMax Capital. The LLC purchased the property that includes the lodge on East Gilbert Street and the shuttered Skier's Chalet Steakhouse on South Aspen Street, along with development approvals, for $22 million.
But residents have known for years that their days at the Skier’s Chalet were numbered, because the building is one component in the expansive Lift One Lodge project that includes a new hotel, residences, dining and other amenities.
(The Lift One Lodge is itself part of an even larger Lift One Corridor redevelopment project on South Aspen Street that also involves the Gorsuch Haus hotel, now owned by the OKO Group, and a replacement of the current Lift 1A.)
Lift One Lodge developers plan to relocate the Skier’s Chalet Lodge from just downhill to East Dean Street from its current location on East Gilbert Street and renovate it for new uses.
Plans show the relocated building will house a ski history museum, operated by the Aspen Historical Society, and some guest services for skiers and snowboarders, operated by the Aspen Skiing Company. As it currently stands, the structure has 4,620 square feet of space over three floors, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office.
The Skier’s Chalet Steakhouse building on South Aspen Street is also slated for restoration, with plans to operate as a restaurant and bar.
Bruegger has had a month-to-month lease since he moved into the chalet in 2008.
“It's always kind of been a museum of ski bums while we've lived here,” Bruegger said. “I haven't seen any final plans or what their intentions are for the museum, but I think it's kind of cool. They're saving it — definitely a part of Aspen ski history.”
Though tenants’ leases will end this summer, the Lift One Lodge development isn’t slated to break ground until the spring of 2025, according to a proposed construction sequencing plan on file with the city. Lift One Lodge representatives declined to comment Friday afternoon as to why the Skier's Chalet tenants are getting the notice that their leases are ending this summer.
Proposed construction plan subject to change
Lift One Lodge Aspen LLC submitted a building permit application to the city of Aspen earlier this spring, marking a next step forward in the Lift One Corridor project.
The Lift One Lodge building permit application is now undergoing a lengthy review process with the city. The Aspen Daily News first reported the submission on May 4.
But according to city officials, there’s still a lot of fine-tuning ahead before developers can put shovels in the ground as local agencies provide comments on the building permit application and developers hone in their construction sequencing and logistics.
It could take a year or more for the city to review the building permit application for Lift One Lodge. And before the city issues the permit, representatives from four of the parties involved in the Lift One Corridor — Lift One Lodge Aspen LLC, the city of Aspen, the Aspen Skiing Company and Aspen City Holdings LLC, which is linked to the Gorsuch Haus project — need to sign a construction sequencing agreement that lays out what work will happen when.
As of early April, the city had an unsigned, “proposed” version of the sequencing plan, which is required in the city’s approvals for the project.
Jen Phelan, a development manager with the city, wrote in an email to Aspen Public Radio on May 1 that the city cannot issue a building permit until that plan is signed— and that the sequence is still subject to some changes as Lift One Lodge adjusts their timeline and budget and works to lock in a contractor.
In a clarifying email last week, Phelan noted, “The applicant asked and the city agreed to allow that document to act as placeholder until a building permit is ready for issuance, at which point an updated, executed document (confirming stakeholder agreement) will be submitted that will reflect up to date expectations on sequencing and any changed conditions as it will be much closer to shovel in the ground.”
Permit review one of many factors in construction timing
That proposed construction sequence depends on a host of variables, including the building permit timeline.
Ben Anderson, the deputy director of community development for the city of Aspen, wrote in an email to Aspen Public Radio last month that the building permit review process may take about 12 to 18 months for Lift One Lodge.
And with a project valued at nearly $200 million, covering more than 200,000 square feet, with challenges like a ski lift that loads on top of a subterranean parking lot, according to Anderson, “reviewing a project like this against the building code, Aspen’s zoning requirements and other specific approves of the project is a significant undertaking in itself.”
Design changes or issues that may arise during the review could add to the total review time, but Anderson wrote the project team and designers have spent a few years working “extensively” with the city’s review agencies to address most of the complexities already.
Review is now in the city’s hands, at least until they issue the first round of comments on the application.
That process is expected to take several months, as it involves half a dozen different city departments — building, engineering, zoning, parks, historic preservation and utilities — plus the Aspen Fire District and the Aspen Sanitation District, all of which will provide first-round comments. Anderson estimates there will be “at least two or three rounds of comments until all review agencies are comfortable that the project is in compliance.”
After that, the project developers can cover the balance of review fees, impact fees and affordable housing mitigation — then, finally, “‘pick up’ their permit,” Anderson wrote.
The proposed construction sequencing plan anticipates a building permit in hand for Lift One Lodge around the first quarter of 2025, almost two years away.
The plan also indicates that developers of the OKO Group hotel project, currently called the Gorsuch Haus, plan to submit their building permit application in the second quarter of 2024, estimating a permit in hand “no later than the second quarter of 2026 and as early as the second quarter of 2025.”
Charlotte Maslavekas, the senior director of marketing and communications for the OKO Group, wrote that the group is currently “working with the wider Lift One Corridor stakeholder group as per the timings set out in the construction plan.”
The Lift One Lodge project is projected to take 40 to 44 months from start to finish, and the OKO Group project is projected to take 36 to 40 months to complete, according to the plan. With the staggered start dates, the plan estimates both projects would have “fire alarm and sprinkler sign-off” around the same time, in October or November of 2028.
Both Lift One Lodge and the OKO Group have vested rights through December 24th, 2025, when their approvals expire if they have not submitted a building permit application yet. Anderson wrote that submission of the building permit application locks in those vested rights.
At Lift One Lodge, for instance, the vesting will remain valid “as long as they continue to pursue the issuance of their permit with good faith and by following the established milestones and policies within the City’s permit review and issuance process,” according to Anderson.
Kaya Williams, Halle Zander I Aspen Public Radio I June 14, 2023