Real Estate In the News – December 2021

Happy Holidays!

Read as a flip book.


Hotel Aspen Sold, Eyes Spring Construction

The Hotel Aspen was acquired in November for $37.5 million by a hotel group that has bought and restored properties in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Palm Beach, Florida, into luxury boutique hotels in recent years, the Aspen Times reported. White Elephant Aspen LLC is the name of the company that bought the 45-unit Hotel Aspen. The LLC is controlled by New England Development LLC, a privately held Boston-based firm also behind the ownership of two boutique hotels called The White Elephant in both Nantucket and Palm Beach.

A statement released said: “New England Development can confirm the purchase of Hotel Aspen in Aspen, Colorado. Hotel Aspen will remain operating at least through April 2022. After that time we hope to begin construction on the new hotel, with more details to follow.” The Hotel Aspen, which was built in 1985, and its 45 condo units had been owned by Aaron and Michael Brown since 2003, and they sold the hotel with set approvals for a new development.

City, Aspen Film Renegotiate Isis Theatre Deal

Aspen City Council signed a new sublease with Aspen Film that’s intended to keep the lights on in the town’s only movie theater, the Isis, the Aspen Times reported. The city has owned the five-screen theater on Hopkins Avenue since last year when it refinanced $2.1 million in debt on the building, which the nonprofit, Aspen Film, is responsible for as the municipal government’s sublessee and has been unable to meet because of the pandemic.

 Aspen Film has recently paid roughly $300,000 in back rent, HOA dues and capital reserves from April 2020 through this past August. The renegotiated sublease agreement between the city and Aspen Film puts the nonprofit’s new base rent retroactive from this past September through August 2022 at $6,902.07 a month, which is one-twelfth of the annual debt service of $82,824.80. The new rent amount will cover minimal expenses while allowing the theater to recover from the economic challenges of 2020 and 2021 and Aspen Film can still work toward its long-term goal of fully purchasing the theater.

Aspen Connector Trail Moving Forward

The long-awaited multi-use trail connection between the roundabout and the Aspen Recreation Center is gaining momentum, as elected officials approved a contract for the design, planning and engineering of the alignment that will be located on the west side of Maroon Creek Road, the Aspen Times reported. Maroon Creek is a heavily used corridor for cyclists going to the Maroon Bells who are currently routed through the Aspen School District campus from the trail system that ends at the middle school parking lot and is a mixture of trail, sidewalk and roadway.

Aspen City Council approved a $122,530 contract with consultant OTAK for the initial work, and discussed the importance of the connection because of the rise in popularity of e-bikes.

Aspen Art Museum Announces New Cafe Team

The Aspen Art Museum has appointed a new culinary team and launched a new restaurant in its rooftop space in early December, the Aspen Times reported. The renamed Rooftop Café is led by Chef Brian Banister and food and beverage director Alex Fonseca. The pair will work closely with nearby farms and community partners on the new restaurant. In addition to the new dining service, the museum will continue to operate The Slippery Slope, a functioning sculpture by Los Angeles-based artist Adam Stamp that serves as a bar on the rooftop and opened last year.

Snowmass Village

Snowmass to Host Tourism Conference, Finally
After two years of postponement, Snowmass will finally host the state’s tourism conference Sept. 21-23, 2022, the Aspen Times reported. The town’s hosting duties got pushed to 2021 for the annual conference of hundreds of tourism leaders from across the state. Then Snowmass Village’s main conference center — and the hotel attached to it — sold to new owners, who announced the space would temporarily close from April 2021 until early winter for renovations.
The announcement means hundreds of tourism leaders from around Colorado will join for three days of seminars, workshops and speaker sessions on the weekend.

Second Pot Shop Approved for Snowmass
The Snowmass Village’s Local Marijuana Licensing Authority approved an application for a marijuana sales license for The Snowmass Dispensary, the Aspen Times reported. If all goes according to plan, the Snowmass Dispensary will be primed to open on the second level of the Snowmass Center not too far into the ski season. The application was submitted by Andrew Wickes, who is the operational manager Snowmass Liquor and Gifts, at the Snowmass Center shop that his parents, Barbara and Steve, founded in 1979. He was also a vocal proponent for many years of convincing elected to allow marijuana sales within the town limits.


Town of Basalt Looks to Hire Real Estate Broker
With the town of Basalt looking to acquire more property for affordable housing, local officials also want to bring on a professional real estate broker to assist with those future transactions, the Aspen Daily News reported. In November, Basalt voters overwhelmingly supported increasing the town’s debt by $18 million — with a maximum repayment cost of approximately $23 million — in order to increase the town’s supply of affordable housing.

With millions more in the pipeline for future town projects town staff has requested hiring a real estate broker to help manage the deals. The town issued a request for proposals for real estate broker services several weeks ago, but it garnered only two responses, including one from Ted Borchelt of Sotheby’s International Realty.  If approved by council and ultimately hired by the town, Borchelt would earn a commission of between 5-6% on real estate transactions.

Sketch Plan for Downtown Development Approved
Basalt Town Council unanimously gave approval for sketch plans of a redevelopment downtown after several rounds of back-and-forth with developers Tim Belinski and Andrew Light, the Aspen Times reported. They plan to demolish the existing 30,000-square-foot commercial building and replace it with 67 apartments and a 9,000-square-foot hybrid grocery store and food hall. Clark’s Market vacated the space in June 2014.

Several major revisions were made to try to earn approval for their project over five meetings, including increasing the number of rent-controlled units to 17 from 11; pledging to require rentals of at least six months for the 50 free-market units; reducing the building from four stories to three to get under the maximum allowable height. In addition, the developers made various pledges to ensure the grocery store gets built within nine months of completion of the first apartment unit. The project will come back for a final review at an undetermined date. 


New Town Manager Announced
The Carbondale Board of Trustees announced that Lauren Gister was the unanimous choice for town manager following the conclusion of a national search, the Aspen Daily News reported. Gister’s start date with Carbondale is Jan. 17. Her salary will be $180,000, and she will receive housing and relocation benefits. She currently lives in Chester, Connecticut, where she is serving her fourth term as first selectwoman, an elected position that functions as the town’s chief executive officer. Gister also is a practicing attorney and served in the United States Marine Corps for more than 25 years.

New Library Managers Appointed
Garfield County Public Libraries are gradually staffing back up following the departure of several branch managers earlier this year, including new managers at the Glenwood Springs and Carbondale libraries, the Sopris Sun reported. Joining the Garfield County Public Library District as Glenwood Springs branch manager is Daniel Messer, a former college and correctional center librarian from the Chicago area. The new Carbondale branch manager is Tracy Kallassy, who hails from upstate New York and most recently managed the Arlington Public Library in Arlington, Va. outside Washington, D.C.

Glenwood Springs

Council Approves Motion for Development Moratorium
Residential developments in Glenwood Springs could soon be put on hiatus after City Council approved a motion for a six-month development moratorium, the Aspen Times reported. The temporary development moratorium could prevent the council from reviewing new development applications and building permits for proposed developments containing more than 10 residential units, but not apply to applications or permits already submitted, approved, or pending approval. This would give council the chance to come up with growth management solutions.
Council members approved a similar moratorium on short-term rentals recently, and during the duration of the moratorium, the council received thorough feedback from the community about how to proceed. The motion will need to be approved as an ordinance, which is set for discussion Nov. 18. The ordinance would need to be approved at two meetings before going into effect.

Hotel Denver Sold
Longtime Glenwood Springs hotel owners April and Steve Carver sold the Hotel Denver and Hotel Glenwood Springs, the Aspen Times reported. The Hotel Denver in downtown Glenwood sold for $15 million to Aspen investor Tony Sherman, who owns Terrapin Investments. Sherman also purchased the Hotel Glenwood Springs, located at the base of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park tram, for $9 million. The Carvers were in partnership with other investors in that property. Sherma’s company also owns the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express properties in Glenwood Springs. The dual sales signal the close of 30 years in the Glenwood Springs hotel business for the Carvers, who still own the Redstone Castle but have it listed for sale for $19 million.

Pitkin County

SkiCo Looks to Homeowners to House Employees
Amid an increasingly tight housing market, Aspen Skiing Co. is short on employees who can’t find a place to live and the company is turning to the public to help out, the Aspen Daily News reported. The “Tenants for Turns” program gives those willing to lease a room to an in-need SkiCo employee for the season a selection from a small buffet of incentives: a full season’s pass, 10 single-day lift ticket vouchers or a $1,200 gift certificate valid for any Aspen-Snowmass product. In order to participate, a landlord or homeowner must be a first-time lessor to a SkiCo employee.

October Occupancy Records Broken, Again
The latest report from resort tracking firm DestiMetrics shows that combined lodging occupancy for Aspen-Snowmass in October — a month that used to be considered part of the local “offseason” — was 47.3%. Aspen’s occupancy was 54.4% and Snowmass’s was 35.3%, the Aspen Daily News reported. October’s 47.3% monthly occupancy was 14.5% above the 41.3% bookings figure recorded for the same month last year. For the summer season, which was defined as May through October, combined occupancy was 60.3%, 52.7% above summer 2020’s 39.5% and 6% higher than summer 2019’s 56.9% — a percentage achieved before the COVID-19 pandemic came into play.

County Tops State Recycling and Diversion Rates
Pitkin County and Aspen are at the top of the list of Colorado municipalities and counties making strides in recycling and composting, the Aspen Daily News reported. Pitkin County claimed the best greater Colorado countywide residential and commercial rate, with a 38% diversion, while Aspen and Durango were tied for best greater Colorado citywide residential and commercial rate, with a 32% diversion. The biggest contributor to the diversion rate is the composting program; the county composted nearly 13,000 tons of material in 2020.