Real Estate In The News — April 2022

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Happy Spring Everyone!

Overall listing inventory is down about 60-65% compared to this same time last year in Aspen Snowmass (and last year was down significantly compared to the year prior). 

 

This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s “nothing to sell” – for sure it’s slim pickings out there, but the lower inventory levels are accompanied by much shorter average days on market (new listings are selling in 1/3-1/2 the time they used to take to sell).

 

The highest priced sale of the year was $50m (the second ever $50m+ sale in our market) and that same home sold for just over $30m only a few months ago –this shows a trend of an increasing acceptance of higher priced sales in our area and the opportunity of buying at one price to sell at another in a short amount of time.  

 

It doesn’t seem possible for properties to double every 5 years which is what has happened in the last 5.  At some point price increases will need to slow substantially.  But the big question is when.  With the experience of Covid for the last 2 years, Buyers are not afraid to spend what they must to be where they want to live.  

 

Best,
Tory

 

Tommy Hilfiger Flips Aspen Home for $19 Million Profit
Fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee Ocleppo thought they found their dream home when they purchased it in December 2021, the Aspen Daily News reported. But when an undisclosed buyer came along offering $19 million more than they paid for it, it became time to find a different dream home.

The 7,150-square-foot, seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom at 550 Aspen Alps Road sold for $50 million in February, and though unlisted, the sale was represented by broker Steven Shane of Compass. The sale drew national headlines for its remarkable profit margin in a market that’s already producing draw-dropping transactions.

Paepcke Hub Getting Upgrade
Improvements to the second busiest bus stop in Aspen will be made this year, despite that the project has increased from $1.9 million to $4.4 million, the Aspen Times reported. The Paepcke Transit Hub project at Main and Garmisch streets was supposed to be built last fall, but no contractors bid on the project in June 2021. The city went out for bid again in September and it received only one bid from Gould Construction. The city is moving forward because delaying it would mean losing $800,000 in Colorado Department of Transportation grants, which expire next year. Current conditions at the intersection are unsafe for pedestrians and the bus stop infrastructure is subpar as well.

Gorsuch Haus Flips for Seven Times Price
A Miami-based development firm founded by a Russian-born billionaire paid $76.25 million for nearly 1 acre of land at the base of Aspen Mountain where the sellers had planned to build a slope-side hotel called the Gorsuch Haus, the Aspen Times reported. The deal came less than one year after Norway Island LLC — a partnership including Jim DeFrancia of Lowe’s Development, Jeff Gorsuch and Bryan Peterson — acquired the same piece of land for $10 million from Aspen Skiing Co. in July. This week’s closing amount surpassed last year’s price by more than seven times. The property covers 41,268 square feet, which equates to 0.95 acre. It also comes with entitlements to build a voter-approved hotel.

Aspen Gets on CDOT’s Radar for Entrance
The city of Aspen last month applied for placement on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s regional list of projects and to be considered for $200 million toward the Entrance to Aspen, the Aspen Times reported. It’s a list that has a lot of competition from other counties and cities on the Western Slope, and to get a place in line for Highway 82 — the busiest rural highway in the state — city officials decided it’s time to get the ball rolling again on what could be a 10-year wait.

The package for the entrance to Aspen is CDOT’s preferred alternative identified in the agency’s Record of Decision in 1998 that identifies Marolt Open Space as the vehicle alignment coming into town with light rail. Also known as the modified direct route, it would screen off the S-curves and instead include four traffic lanes — two public transit-only lanes and two normal traffic lanes — across the open space, located just east of the roundabout. That construction would include a tunnel and a new bridge across Castle Creek Tommy Hilfiger Flips Aspen Home for $19 Million Profit
Fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee Ocleppo thought they found their dream home when they purchased it in December 2021, the Aspen Daily News reported. But when an undisclosed buyer came along offering $19 million more than they paid for it, it became time to find a different dream home.

The 7,150-square-foot, seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom at 550 Aspen Alps Road sold for $50 million in February, and though unlisted, the sale was represented by broker Steven Shane of Compass. The sale drew national headlines for its remarkable profit margin in a market that’s already producing draw-dropping transactions.

Paepcke Hub Getting Upgrade
Improvements to the second busiest bus stop in Aspen will be made this year, despite that the project has increased from $1.9 million to $4.4 million, the Aspen Times reported. The Paepcke Transit Hub project at Main and Garmisch streets was supposed to be built last fall, but no contractors bid on the project in June 2021. The city went out for bid again in September and it received only one bid from Gould Construction. The city is moving forward because delaying it would mean losing $800,000 in Colorado Department of Transportation grants, which expire next year. Current conditions at the intersection are unsafe for pedestrians and the bus stop infrastructure is subpar as well.

Gorsuch Haus Flips for Seven Times Price
A Miami-based development firm founded by a Russian-born billionaire paid $76.25 million for nearly 1 acre of land at the base of Aspen Mountain where the sellers had planned to build a slope-side hotel called the Gorsuch Haus, the Aspen Times reported. The deal came less than one year after Norway Island LLC — a partnership including Jim DeFrancia of Lowe’s Development, Jeff Gorsuch and Bryan Peterson — acquired the same piece of land for $10 million from Aspen Skiing Co. in July. This week’s closing amount surpassed last year’s price by more than seven times. The property covers 41,268 square feet, which equates to 0.95 acre. It also comes with entitlements to build a voter-approved hotel.

Aspen Gets on CDOT’s Radar for Entrance
The city of Aspen last month applied for placement on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s regional list of projects and to be considered for $200 million toward the Entrance to Aspen, the Aspen Times reported. It’s a list that has a lot of competition from other counties and cities on the Western Slope, and to get a place in line for Highway 82 — the busiest rural highway in the state — city officials decided it’s time to get the ball rolling again on what could be a 10-year wait.

The package for the entrance to Aspen is CDOT’s preferred alternative identified in the agency’s Record of Decision in 1998 that identifies Marolt Open Space as the vehicle alignment coming into town with light rail. Also known as the modified direct route, it would screen off the S-curves and instead include four traffic lanes — two public transit-only lanes and two normal traffic lanes — across the open space, located just east of the roundabout. That construction would include a tunnel and a new bridge across Castle Creek farther south from the current bridge, and would hook up with Main Street via Seventh Street.

Forest Service Approves Upgrades to Snowmass Ski Area
The U.S. Forest Service granted Aspen Skiing Co. approval to eventually replace or remodel the wildlife center and ski patrol headquarters at the top of Snowmass Ski Resort’s Elk Camp chairlift, the Aspen Times reported. White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams also granted Skico approval to add a significantly larger deck to the Elk Camp Restaurant, which is located at the top of the gondola. There is no timing on either project, but they’re unlikely to move forward this summer.

Midland Avenue to Get Biggest Upgrade Ever
Basalt launched an $11.7 million, three-year initiative that will be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken by the town government, the Aspen Times reported. The town received citizen buy-in, prior to construction starting on the main street in the business core. Last fall, town voters approved the extension of an existing property tax to allow issuance of bonds for the Midland project as well as affordable housing projects and environmentally friendly initiatives as part of a program called Basalt Forward 2030.

This year will be the planning phase. In summer 2023, the water and sewer lines buried beneath the street will be replaced and the storm water system updated. In summer 2024, sidewalks will be widened, pedestrian safety amenities added, bicycle parking created and landscaping enhanced.

Forest Service Weighing Midvalley Land Sale
For the second time in less than five years the U.S. Forest Service is taking public comments on a proposal to sell or lease land next to Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel, the Aspen Times reported. The White River National Forest staff is working on an Environmental Assessment on the possible sale or lease of 30 acres along Valley Road.

Eagle and Pitkin counties have the first right of refusal. Eagle County hired a consultant in 2021 to hold “listening sessions” with stakeholders and a limited number of public to determine potential uses for the 30 acres on the upper parcel. Affordable housing (including senior housing), an expansion of Crown Mountain Park and preservation of open space were the favored directions.

Basalt Officials Consider “Buy-Down” Program
Town Council members have hired a consultant to consider a “buy down” program where developers or operators of rental properties would be compensated to reduce the rents by a certain amount over a given period, the Aspen Times reported. The deed-restricted units would be rented to people who qualify through the town guidelines, with limits on income and assets.
Additionally, the town might consider acquiring perpetual deed restrictions from private property owners by buying down the sale prices for local working residents. Basalt voters approved a bond issuance in November that includes $6 million earmarked specifically for affordable housing.

Carbondale Gets First Bookstore in 12 Years
Since 2010, Carbondale has been without a bookstore. That changed on March 3, when White River Books opened its doors on North 2nd Street, the Aspen Daily News reported. Opened by Izzy Stringham, she saw a void in not only the book industry, but locally owned businesses.
White River Books is Stringham’s latest endeavor after raising two daughters, teaching ski school and, when her body got tired of that, working in retail for the past five years. She prepared the space with her family, and White River Books will carry a variety of genres, from history to children’s books in Spanish.

Sustainable Settings’ Thompson Creek Ranch Hits Market for $24 Million
Rose and Brook LeVan bought the 244 acres of Thompson Creek Ranch in Carbondale in 2003 to restore the land, the Aspen Times reported. Now that it’s healed, they are selling it for a starting price of $24.25 million. Sustainable Settings, the nonprofit they co-founded, purchased the land in 2003 for $2 million. The LeVans are known for the experimental approach to agriculture.

The sale of the property would include all 244.5 acres as well as a two-bedroom ranch house built in 1893, a bath house built in 2017, an outdoor kitchen, barns, a guest house, a dairy, a ranch store and office, ranch shop, root cellar, three greenhouses, an electrical corridor and a solar electric system tied to the grid. The ranch has water rights that date back to the 1800s.

Glenwood Springs

GOCO Awards Grant to Refurbish Hanging Lake Trail
Great Outdoors Colorado announced it was awarding a $2.28 million grant to the National Forest Foundation and the city of Glenwood Springs to restore the Hanging Lake Trail, the Aspen Daily News reported. The trail and lake east of Glenwood Springs closed following extensive damage from last July’s debris flows in the Grizzly Creek Fire burn-scar area.

The trail’s closure forced the cancellation of more than 15,000 trail reservations. At $12 per shuttle ticket, reservation fees for Hanging Lake provide a significant source of revenue that supports trail improvements, lake protection, shuttle operations and staffing. It is estimated that the direct economic value of Hanging Lake to Glenwood Springs exceeds $4.6 million annually.

Aspen Airport Pares Back Summer Schedule
This summer’s commercial flight schedule for the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport isn’t shaping up to be the record-breaker that last summer’s lineup was, the Aspen Daily News reported. It will be on par with the pre-pandemic peak of 2019, when 20 commercial flights landed daily at ASE. This summer, 19-20 daily flights are planned from United and American airlines, short of last summer’s 23.

Part of the reason is the much-reported news about pilot shortages and flight-schedule cuts.
American will be trimming back its schedule from 10 daily flights last summer to five this summer. Those include three daily from Dallas-Fort Worth and one each from Chicago and Los Angeles. Last year’s offering from Phoenix has been suspended. But the airline is retaining its relatively new Saturday-only flight from Austin.

United, meanwhile, is planning the same frequency as last summer with a total of up to 14 daily flights from five hubs. Specifically, that means seven flights daily from Denver (eight beginning June 24), two daily from both Los Angeles and Houston, and one daily from both San Francisco and Chicago.

Cindy Houben Retires as CommDev Director After Nearly Four Decades
Cindy Houben, Pitkin County’s community development director, announced her retirement last month after holding the position for 27 years, and being in the department for 10 more, the Aspen Daily News reported. She will officially retire from her position on July 1 but will remain on in a limited capacity through 2022 to assist with ongoing projects.

During her time as a planner and director of a planning department, Houben was a driving force behind the creation and implementation of the county’s rural-and-remote zoning designation. Intended to protect the county’s abundance of rural and remote land, the zoning classification comes up regularly during land-use issues, including lately concerning short-term rental regulations in unincorporated Pitkin County. In 2018, Houben became one of the first women from Colorado to be inducted into the College of Fellows for the American Institute of Certified Planners. Pitkin County will begin its search for a new community development director next month.

Aspen Valley Hospital Acquires Ambulance Barn for Temporary Housing
Aspen Valley Hospital plans to convert a neighboring “ambulance barn” into units where doctors and nurses can rest while on call after purchasing the deteriorating building from Pitkin County for $528,733, the Aspen Daily News reported.

The Aspen Ambulance District had a 50-year ground lease—with 23 years left—with the hospital district that allowed it to operate out of the 2,900-square-foot facility. That “barn” has since deteriorated, and in 2019 the ambulance district relocated to a new 13,000-square-foot facility. Because the building also requires ­significant work, the county agreed to sell its leasehold interest for the reduced cost of $528,733. The county estimated that replacing the building’s septic system alone likely would cost the hospital $540,000. The facility will have 12 units the commuting healthcare workers can use for rest and recovery.