Major changes to PUD possible for a “high rise hotel”
By Katherine Nettles
The owners of the Nordic Inn in Mt. Crested Butte are proposing changes to the PUD (planned unit development) of the property to bring it in line with typical four-star, high-end resort-quality lodging, and could begin construction in 2021.
The Pearls Management, LLC came before the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council on March 19 in a concept plan review work session to discuss its plans for a major alteration to the current Nordic Inn PUD. The changes include building and parking lot re-orientation, added landscaping, underground parking, conference facility and other alterations meant to improve the building’s visual appeal and reduce the traffic impacts on Upper Treasury and Mt. Emmons Roads.
The developer, Peter Jago, and his attorney were present for the meeting, and Jago painted a picture for the group of a future four-star hotel with mountain views, a coffee shop, restaurants, on-site employee housing, an underground parking structure and large suites of multiple rooms to accommodate families and large groups. Jago estimated that it would be a $50 to $70 million project, and said he would like to get in the ground by spring of 2021. “Which means we really only have this year to get the PUD done,” he said.
Jago said the initial Nordic Inn PUD was functional, but not pretty, and said there was previously some uncertainty from the town regarding whether it would want a parking lot surface. “Why we’ve come back to change the PUD is because the first one was not really what’s right. And we’ve heard from the town itself, that you didn’t want a blacktop… We didn’t know what the town wanted to do, so we just went through the process. And we’re very glad you adopted it. But it’s not an efficient hotel; it’s not efficient parking. And it would be in my opinion, pretty ugly. So we came back with what we think will be a much better plan. And this is a better hotel, a much more efficient hotel. It has all the necessary items for five stars, including conference facilities.
“Most important, you won’t see a single parking space. It is all underground,” added Jago.
The new plan includes an underground parking structure with a total of 237 parking spaces, 123 of which would be for paid public use. The hotel would allow for 114 parking spaces for its guests, and Jago estimated that he was overestimating that need at .75 parking spaces. Any free spaces could also be made available to the public.
The hotel would contain around 152 units, each with mountain views, and just over 5,000 square feet dedicated to workforce housing—a minimum of six units as contained in the original proposal.
Jago discussed the project as a unique one in his portfolio, contrasting it to a boutique hotel he owns in South Africa with about 60 rooms and a large, $250 million building he owns in Miami “with 400 apartments, a big hotel, a massive supermarket, and tons of retail.”
The two extremes aside, Jago said, “Here, this is going to be for us a trophy asset…so we want to make this look really good. I don’t want to be an Eleven, but I don’t want to be the others. I want to be right in the middle.”
Jago said he felt lucky to have bought the property four years ago and then be around when Vail bought the resort.
“I think Mt. Crested Butte has got huge potential for the future. For us it’s important, this is an asset. This is a long-term asset that has to work and has to flow. But I also don’t like huge development. You could spoil this town too, if you added too much junk… We want to add to the beauty of it instead of detracting from the beauty of it,” he said.
Gary Hartmann, the architect for the project, said the idea was to keep the old hotel building, turn it into restaurants, and build up around it. He said there would be a need for widening the road and changing the entrance to the lot.
The Town Council weighed in on the project, and primarily focused on the parking facilities.
Council member and mayor pro tem Lauren Daniel said she appreciated the developer taking into consideration the input of the neighbors, and said, “It’s all very impressive.”
“Seems like to me that we are getting a parking lot,” said councilmember Dwayne Lehnertz. He asked what the town has to do for that, per its 2018 agreement with the developer that allowed for several options. The ownership of the lot remains with the town, but the developer has the option to build a parking lot and purchase the land back from the town, after the parking lot is in place.
Councilmember Janet Farmer said there will likely be people balking at the new development of “a high rise hotel.”
Community development coordinator Carlos Velado chimed in that he had concerns about the parking allotments and “.75 spaces per unit, which, in my opinion, it is under-parked. This is a dramatic change from the original plan,” he noted. He asked if the council felt this change was dramatic enough, or not dramatic enough to treat it as a new PUD.
The council agreed that this was an appropriate measure to take without starting over, and the developer went before the Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission the following night to further dig in to its changes in advance of any formal application submitted to the town.
Velado commented afterward on both meetings. “I would say the council demonstrated that they were receptive to the consideration of a new proposal for the Nordic Inn PUD. I was unable to attend the Planning Commission the next night but reports are that the Planning Commission was receptive as well. They did state that they would like to look deeper into the proposed parking when and if an application is submitted. The also expressed traffic concerns along Treasury/Emmons and potential noise from the proposed building.”
The Concept Plan Review was the first one for the town since adopting the idea in an ordinance earlier this year. The purpose of the concept plan review is to familiarize the council with major PUD changes as they develop, rather than only at the time an application comes before them for a vote.