Gorsuch Haus proposal draws support ahead of filing

Dec 20, 2015

A development group comprised of local residents is proposing a mixed use hotel project at the Lift 1A site.
Credit Promo Communications

The developers behind a lodge project at the base of Aspen Mountain plan to file an application with the City of Aspen this month. The mixed-use hotel near Lift 1A received support from the public at an open house in early December. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

About 200 people squeezed into a conference room at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen on December 3rd. Members of the group Norway Island Partners gave their pitch.

"Good evening everyone. Thanks for coming and we’re delighted to see such a packed house. We’re hoping you’ll find our presentation informative," said Jim DeFrancia.  

He’s a partner with an extensive development background.

"Our objective is to publicly present our proposed development of Gorsuch Haus and the revitalization of the Lift 1A area."

Jeff Gorsuch is with Norway Island Partners, a development group that wants to build a lodge at the base of Aspen Mountain.
Credit Marci Krivonen

Gorsuch Haus would be built on a two-acre parcel alongside a ski run. It would include 75,000 square feet of floor area, with 61 hotel rooms, 7 individually owned lodging units and six condos. The structure would terrace up the ski hill, ranging from five to two floors with the lowest height the farthest up. A restaurant, bar and ski club quarters would be included.

Development partner Jeff Gorsuch evokes the site’s ski history, saying it’s a special place that tied skiing to town.

"You can see that today we’re in a different place. We’re in a quiet time, and we’re in a place where we may have to challenge ourselves as a community to look at the notion of the Aspen idea and are we honoring this idea as a community."

He says the proposed building would pay tribute to what he terms a “sacred” area. The project would include a new relocated, repositioned chairlift in conjunction with the lodge.

The audience questioned the developers about public transportation and affordable housing. Resident Helen Ward pressed the team to keep the look of the building in line with Aspen, and not Vail.

"The town is getting more and more modern with stone (materials) and vertical surfaces. It looks a little more like Vail everyday. I hope we can keep that Gorsuch aesthetic. (applause)."

Gorsuch says the look of the building will pay tribute to Aspen’s history.

"It’s going to be like a handmade hotel. It’ll be a fine hotel in a fine location - at the base of the world’s greatest mountain. So, we’re going to try to live up to those high criteria."

"I thought it was an interesting presentation, I thought the commentary from the crowd was entertaining and fun."

Aspen resident Michael Edinger says he’s excited to hear further discussion about the project.

"The renderings look lovely and I’m sure if they put as much energy into the renderings as they do the final project, I think it’ll come out great."

Marina Rainer says when it comes to development, she’s picky about what she supports. This project passes muster, partly because it doesn’t request exceptions to the City’s land use code.

Rainer: “He’s asking for no variances. That’s what everybody should do. That’s what the community is telling City Council to do.”

Reporter: “So it’s a good proposal?”

Rainer: “I think so.”

Even though the big launch was in early December, the developers have been drawing up ideas for four years. Development partner Bryan Peterson says the latest iteration was formed a few months ago after lots of public feedback.

"The overriding theory that was super important to everyone was, ‘get out of the way.’ - Move the lift as low as possible and move your property north-south.”

He says the group cut off an entire wing in its latest proposal. The concept hasn’t experienced much opposition, he says, because he thinks it represents the community’s desires.

"We want to do something for the community. If we were getting a lot of pushback that would be because we didn’t listen.”

The application will go before the City’s Planning and Zoning Committee in the spring and may reach City Council for review in the summer.