Real Estate in the News – February 2016

Real Estate in the News – February 2016
A rundown of government and business activity over the last month, focusing on issues and items that are of particular interest to the Real Estate community

Aspen

Aspen Mulls Parking Fee Hikes
In an effort to reduce traffic congestion, Aspen City Council approved raising parking rates in the core this summer during a work session, while giving the city manager’s office the go-ahead to investigate contracting with an on-demand shuttle service designed for short in-town trips, the Aspen Daily News reported.

The council was unanimously in favor of raising parking rates roughly 50 percent at meters in the downtown core during the months of June, July and August. The plan would see the rate for an hour of parking in the 16 square blocks of the downtown core increase during the high season from $2 to $3; two hours would go from $5 to $7.50; and for four hours, the maximum amount of time allowed to be purchased at downtown meters, the price would go from $14 to $21.

The experiment would end in the fall, when rates would return to current levels, but could be revived again next winter if it is deemed effective in freeing up parking in the core and reducing car trips into town.      

W Hotel to Take Over Sky Hotel Management
The W hotel brand is coming to Aspen, having been named as the operator of the property that will be redeveloped after the Sky Hotel is torn down, likely beginning this spring. W is known for its hip urban hotels, and Northridge Capital, which owns the Sky at 709 E. Durant Ave. at the base of Aspen Mountain, marks the conclusion of a months-long process to select the operator of the new lodge.

Kimpton Hotels, which has operated the Sky for Northridge since 2002, was one of two finalists, along with the W, out of 10 initial applicants to run the new lodge. The project will more than double the existing Sky’s square feet, from 43,000 to 91,500, increasing the room count from 90 to 104, 11 of which will be sold as fractional ownership condos to be called the Sky Residences at W Aspen. Six of the lodge rooms will feature bunk beds, and there will be two on-site affordable housing units.

McDonald’s Closes Its Aspen Doors
After 31 years in Aspen, McDonald’s abruptly closed its doors in January. Paul Nelson, the franchise owner, said in a prepared statement that “McDonald’s had made the decision to close some underperforming restaurants. As it relates to the Rocky Mountain region, the McDonald’s restaurant located in Aspen is a part of this plan.”

The business, which opened in 1983 amid community consternation, was one of the town’s longest-running. The decision leaves Aspen with just one national chain restaurant in Domino’s. McDonald’s stock saw a two-year decline before its U.S. sales recovered in 2015, and the local restaurant seemed to have a continually brisk business.

Snowmass

Snowmass Village Looks to Better Connect
Snowmass Village town council identified a number of high-priority improvements to its trails and roads, which include enhancing pedestrian, bike and transit connections while reducing the reliance on vehicles in its Community Connectivity Plan.

Among ideas for achieving these include improved signage, additional walkways and revised crosswalks across the town’s main artery, Brush Creek Road; 14 recommended trails and walkways that provide a more seamless and comprehensive pedestrian connection, and four alternatives to the slow Skittles lift between Base Village and the Snowmass Mall. There’s $75,000 budgeted for the project through the town’s capital improvement fund, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Basalt

Basalt Rejects Shared Tax Proposal
A divided Basalt Town Council rejected a controversial plan put forth by the developer of Willits Town Center that would have seen the municipality share tax revenue with the company, the Aspen Daily News reported.

The 4-3 vote against the financing agreement rejected the plan to aid the Willits Town Center owner, Missouri-based conglomerate Mariner Real Estate Management. The financing plan was aimed at helping Mariner bridge a $10 million to $12 million gap it says it will incur, a shortfall stemming from the costs the company expects in finishing the project versus the commercial rent it recoups. The developer and the town arrived at a complex pact in which the municipality, after it had collected roughly $1.4 million in tax revenue from Willits businesses in 2016 and future years, would split the rest 50-50 with Mariner. But now it will not go forward.

Carbondale

Downvalley Real Estate on the Rise
According to the most-recent Garfield County Market Analysis compiled by Land Title Co. in Glenwood Springs, through November of 2015 gross sales in the county were up 7.5 percent and total transactions were up 21.9 percent, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported.

In fact, 2015 sales had already far surpassed the five-year high for transactions, at 1,377 through November compared with just 921 for all of 2011. Countywide, the average single-family home sale was $386,938 through November; not quite back to the peak of $448,000 in 2008-09, according to the latest stats, but steadily increasing nonetheless.

A stark contrast in home prices still exists between the east and west ends of the county, however. In Carbondale, the average single-family home sold for $749,461 last year, up 4 percent from 2014, while in Glenwood Springs the average single-family home price was $462,795, up 6 percent.

By comparison, the average single-family home in Rifle sold for $228,706, and the price was less than $200,000 in Parachute/Battlement Mesa. Multifamily units were selling for an average of $361,106 in Carbondale and $224,904 in Glenwood Springs, compared with $129,765 in Rifle, according to the November analysis.

Glenwood Springs

Grand Avenue Construction Underway
The massive $125 million Grand Avenue Bridge replacement project in Glenwood Springs has begun, with the first of five phases work starting in early January.

The initial construction includes installing a temporary wall for substructure work on eastbound Interstate 70; excavation work for caissons between the railroad tracks and Colorado River; a cul-de-sac near the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, as well as the construction of a temporary pedestrian walkway across the Colorado River adjacent to the current structure, which was built in 1953. It began as a two-lane bridge, and was later expanded to accommodate four lanes.

Traffic on Grand Avenue won’t be affected by the first phase of work, which takes place through February, but there will be temporary closures of the eastbound lane of I-70 in mid-January to “install the temporary wall and platform that the pedestrian bridge and traffic bridge will be constructed from,” according to a Colorado Department of Transportation statement.

Pitkin County

RFTA Starting Strategic Planning Process
A European-style tramway system that doesn’t need overhead wires, electric buses, and car-pooling and -sharing could all be on the table as the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority embarks on an ambitious, years-long study of the valley’s transit needs, the Aspen Daily News reported.

RFTA will hire a consultant as part of the study’s first phase, to which the agency has devoted $200,000. The integrated transportation system plan, which the agency will work on with valley communities, is expected to guide transit decisions for the next 20 to 25 years. The first phase of the two- to three-year analysis — the first time RFTA has undertaken such a study — is also expected to help the agency’s board of directors decide how to tackle long-range financial sustainability and capital replacement. That, in turn, could weigh heavily on whether a tax measure is placed on this year’s ballot to help pay for potential improvements and bus replacement.