The Hotel Lenado building as of early November, 2015. The view is from E. Hopkins Ave., with Francis Whitaker Park to the left. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

ASPEN – City planners are recommending denial of the third version of a building that would replace the Hotel Lenado because it looks top heavy and doesn’t fit in with the neighborhood.

“The current design still promotes a top heavy building,” wrote Jennifer Phelan, Aspen’s deputy planning director in a Nov. 17 memo to the planning and zoning commission. “Staff’s opinion is the building should still be reduced in mass and scale to relate better to the neighborhood.”

The P&Z is slated to review the proposed project Tuesday, Nov. 17, in city hall at 4:30 p.m. If the project is denied, the applicants could appeal to the Aspen city council.

The site is on the corner of S. Aspen St. and E. Hopkins Ave., one block down Hopkins from Aspen’s “restaurant row,” but also in a somewhat residential neighborhood.

This will be the fourth time the project has come before planning and zoning since March. (Previous meetings were held on March 17, Sept. 15 and Oct. 20).

Forum Phi, an architectural and interior design firm in Aspen, has presented three iterations of the proposed building, but P&Z members and staff have consistently said that the flat-roofed “boxy” designs have looked too big and commercial compared to the surrounding neighborhood.

The project is currently not seeking any zoning variances from the city.

A rendering of the first proposed building put forth by the owner of the Hotel Lenado property. Credit: Source: City of Aspen/Forum Phi
A rendering of the second version of the building. Credit: Source: City of Aspen/Forum Phi
A view of the proposed building as included in the P&Z meeting packet for Nov. 17, 2015. This view is from the alley. Credit: Source: City of Aspen/Forum Phi
The back of the Hotel Lenado building in early November, 2015. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism
The front of the Hotel Lenado building on S. Aspen St. Credit: Source: City of Aspen
A rendering of the front of the Hotel Lenado in the Nov. 17, 2015 packet.

“Hotel” Lenado?

It is also not clear how well the new Lenado would function as a hotel. In its review of the initial building, city staff said the “design does not address basic needs for a lodge.”

In response to expressed concerns, the latest floor plans now show spaces for an employee lounge, a catering kitchen, lodge storage, a housekeeping closet, a “management valet” space and more than adequate parking.

Instead of 19 lodge rooms as was the case with the former Hotel Lenado, the new 28-foot-tall building would have four hotel rooms that could be configured as nine locked-off units, along with two employee-housing units.

On the top floor would be two free-market penthouses with a large shared roof deck with outdoor seating and dining spaces.

The free-market units upstairs in the mixed-use building could be used in conjunction with the hotel rooms downstairs, or not.

But the hotel component of the project is subject to deed-restrictions dating from approvals of the Hotel Lenado in 1984: the owner cannot use the hotel for personal use for more than 14 days during the high winter season; there must be on-site manager; and the hotel must sign-up with a central reservations system.

The owner of the Lenado property is Tom Dundon of Dallas, the former CEO of the auto-loan company Santander Consumer USA. He paid $11.9 million for the property in April 2014 through an entity called DCBD2, LLC.

In 2011, Dundon paid $16 million for an Aspen home, a short walk away from the Lenado.

The Hotel Lenado stopped functioning as a hotel in Sept. 2014 and the former hotel rooms were leased to Aspen Skiing Co. employees last winter, but not this summer.

Dundon was not available Monday to discuss his vision of the building.

But Ryan Walterscheid, an architect with Forum Phi, said it was Dundon’s intent to run the lodging component of the building as just that, a small lodge.

However, he couldn’t speak to whether the free-market units would be used in conjunction along with the lodge units, perhaps allowing one party to rent out the whole facility.

Bill Tomcich, the president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, said there are three hotels in Aspen with 10 rooms or fewer. Both the Chalet Lisl and and the Snow Queen Lodge have 10 rooms and the Residence Hotel in downtown Aspen has eight rooms.

Tomcich said he has not had any discussions with anyone about the Lenado property using the services of Stay Aspen Snowmass, the resort’s only central reservations agency.

The building site itself is at 200 S. Aspen St., on a steeply sloping 9,000 square foot lot in a mixed-use zone.

“I would say a mixed use building allows a greater amount of free-market development than a single-family home on the lot,” said the city’s Phelan.

The current Hotel Lenado building, with its red twin peaked roofs, is 9,958 square feet in size. In addition to its 19 hotel rooms, it had a quaint front desk, lobby, library and bar.

The latest version of the proposed building, shown in renderings with a “Lenado” sign on the front, is 10,855 square feet in size and more modern in appearance.

In all, 4,733 square feet of the building would be dedicated to the lodge, while 1,637 square feet would contain the two two-bedroom units for employees.

On the top floor, the two penthouses and related space would account for 4,468 square feet.

The larger of the two free-market units, at 1,761 square feet, includes only a loft. The smaller unit, on the Hopkins Ave. side, has 1,616 square feet and one bedroom.

Members of the P&Z have suggested to the project’s architects they take steps to make the two free-market units more distinctly two separate units.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Aspen Daily News on coverage of downtown development. The Daily News published this story on Nov. 16, 2015.

Brent Gardner-Smith

Brent Gardner-Smith, the founder of Aspen Journalism, and who served as AJ’s executive director until August 2021 and as editor from 2011-2020, is the news director at Aspen Public Radio. He's also been...