Citing their desire to have Main Street Bakery redeveloped into a diner, Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission members this week voted unanimously to approve a land-use plan for the high-profile property owned by developer Mark Hunt.
HPC members lauded the project, which includes a new 900-square-foot building facing Main Street that will connect underground to a historically designated structure that has been on the property for 130 years.
The 1889-built former Main Street Bakery building has been boarded up for more than three years, which many have said is an eyesore and a blight on downtown.
Hunt bought the property, located at 201 E. Main St. next to Paepcke Park, last summer from the estate of the late Leslie Rudd, who had intended to restore the property and open it as an organic grocery store and cafe.
He died when the historic building was under construction.
Hunt envisions it to be an all-day and night diner, and it’s his hope that market forces allow that.
“We can’t say with 100 percent certainty but we are hoping it’s going to be a diner,” he told HPC members Wednesday.
That’s what HPC members were banking on when they approved the roughly 3,400-square-foot development, saying they miss what was there before and think it’s a great project for the city.
Some members were heard after the vote saying they can’t wait to get their biscuits and coffee at a place that for decades had served as a community gathering spot when Bill and Jane Dinsmoor ran it from the late 1980s until they closed it in October 2016.
Hunt said on Friday that he hopes to obtain permits quickly and begin redeveloping the property as soon as possible.
“We’re fighting really hard to make it a diner,” he said, “and this approval got us one step closer.”
Getting the city to issue a building permit could take as little as six weeks to as long as 18 months, Hunt noted.
HPC chair Gretchen Greenwood, with the support of her fellow commission members, directed city planning staff to ask Aspen City Council to help expedite a building permit.
“It’s a public concern and a historic preservation concern and we would like to address it,” Greenwood said, noting the dilapidated condition of the property and the merit of the plans. “This an excellent project for the city.”
Council has the ability to “call up” HPC’s approval if it chooses to do so, and expediting a building permit could be considered during that public hearing.
The HPC is the primary approval authority because the property is in the Main Street historic district and the two buildings on it are designated historic.
Della Pegolotti, owner of Aspen Home Consignment, told HPC members Wednesday that customers are constantly coming into her store asking when the restaurant across street will be redeveloped and open.
She added that the loss of a restaurant has created a gaping whole of vitality in that part of town.
“I encourage it to get moving,” Pegolotti said. “I want it to be more active and vibrant. … I feel like I am on an island.”
Based on feedback and concerns from HPC and city planning staff in September, Hunt and his team did a complete revision of their previous site plan.
Previously, the additional building was on the south end of the property near the alley, and a water fountain and a fireplace in an outdoor courtyard were visible from Main Street.
They eliminated those amenities and moved the new, one-story building so it will face Main Street.
An outdoor seating area with a fire pit is now located behind the building.
Sara Adams, a principal of the land use planning firm BendonAdams that is part of Hunt’s team, noted that the property could be developed with 9,000 square feet of commercial, or become residential.
The new building also could be two-story, but Hunt believes his plan is more appropriate for the mixed-use zone district.
“I think all of us care about this property,” Adams said, “and we want something here and to bring it back online.”