Real Estate in the News — January

I had a business mentor send me an article on setting an intention for the New Year in one word. I thought it was a great idea, and I’ve adopted “focus”! My focus will be spent on you to focus on finding you what you want at your desired price, to sell your property for the highest price the market will bear, and to focus on keeping you up to date with the business in our area as it pertains to real estate!


City Considers Ban on Chain Stores

A citizen group is pushing an initiative to limit the number of chain stores in Aspen, and city council will reconsider the proposal once the existing moratorium on development expires on Feb. 28, the Aspen Daily News reported. Since its introduction in early December, the proposed ban has stirred up many opinions in the community and triggered an inquiry into the emails of those who brought forth the idea.

The citizens group, led by former Aspen mayors Bill Stirling and John Bennett and local resident and high-tech investor Jerry Murdock, has been meeting since late summer and lobbying city officials for about a month. They are proposing that chain stores become a “conditional use” that could be denied or approved if they meet certain criteria, including adding to the diversity of the town’s retail base. Existing chain stores would not be affected, and the proposal could allow spaces that are leased to chain stores to remain so even if the current tenant goes away.

Council members since last month have been reviewing specific policy proposals developed through months of work, including new legislation lowering allowed heights to 28 feet in nearly all commercial areas; banning new free market residential units in the mixed use zone district and drafting new commercial design guidelines that encourage “second-tier” commercial space that is more likely to be affordable for a locally owned and local serving business. Adding a thorough review of the chain-store restrictions to the mix would delay the completion of that review work and potentially distract staff and council’s focus, so the proposal has been tabled until the moratorium is over.

Public-Private Partnerships Start for Affordable Housing

Three public-private partnerships involving the development of rental housing for Aspen employees will gain traction this year with a series of outreach efforts, the Aspen Times reported. The Aspen government has linked arms with Aspen Housing Partners to develop rental complexes at the city-owned properties at 488 Castle Creek Road, 517 Park Circle and 802 W. Main St. All three properties are designated moderate-density residential and would be subject to zoning changes to allow for construction.

The city would lease the land to Aspen Housing Partners, which has agreed to build a mix of Categories 1 through 4 under the housing authority’s guidelines. A preliminary proposal calls for 11 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units at West Main Street; four one-bedroom, five two-bedroom and two three-bedroom units at Park Circle; and 15 one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom units at Castle Creek. All told, the three developments would add 50 units to the city’s pool of employee rental housing.

Financing the projects would, in part, come through either 4 percent or 9 percent federal and state affordable-housing credits. Early projections put the cost at $24.2 million, with $12.7 million coming through housing tax credits, $4.6 million through a first mortgage loan and a second $6.9 million mortgage loan from the city of Aspen.

Penthouse Sale Breaks Records

Dancing Bear Aspen announced it had sold its unfinished penthouse residence in the development’s second phase, the Mountainside building, for $16 million, or $5,427 per-square-foot, the Aspen Daily News reported. The price was touted as exceeding the previous most expensive residential sale in downtown by more than $1,100 per-square-foot.

The penthouse property was never listed for sale and the buyer acquired all eight fractional-ownership options of the nearly 3,000-square-foot, fourth floor Durant Avenue unit. The outdoor living space comprises another 3,500 square feet in a wraparound deck. This big ticket sale, which closed Dec. 5, is part of $40 million in total sales that the Dancing Bear has seen during the fourth quarter of 2016.

Cache Cache Chef Opens Barbecue Restaurant

The executive chef and co-owner of one of Aspen’s most popular high-end restaurants is partnering with a college buddy to open a new barbecue restaurant at Buttermilk, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Chris Lanter of Cache Cache opened Home Team BBQ, which has three restaurants in Charleston, S.C., to the Inn at Aspen. He signed a 10-year contract with Wyndham Vacation Rentals, which owns the condominium hotel. It opened in mid-December.

Lanter is not leaving Cache Cache and his chef de cuisine, Nate King, will take on more responsibility. The goal is to make it a friendly, unpretentious spot for families, sports buffs (12 TVs are in the works) and people clad in cargo shorts and flip-flops — a far cry from Cache Cache. It’s close to the North 40 and Burlingame neighborhoods, where many families live.


SkiCo Finalizes Base Village Purchase

The Aspen Skiing Co., SkiCo, East West Partners and KSL Capital closed on the sale of Base Village assets from Related Cos. for a price in the mid-50 millions, the Aspen Daily News reported. The purchase includes all of the remaining development parcels and commercial property in Base Village, including the Viceroy Hotel, the unsold Viceroy condo units and the Snowmass Hospitality property management company.

A Related-backed partnership, which bought Base Village from SkiCo and Intrawest in 2007, built about one-third of the total planned development before construction came to a halt in the onset of the Great Recession. Lenders wrested control from Related before the company reacquired the project and its approvals in 2012 for $89 million.

Construction is expected to commence in the on the unfinished core of the project contiguous to the Elk Camp gondola and including but not limited to the Limelight Hotel and a plaza area. Work on another highly visible and unfinished part of the project — the faux front buildings along Wood Road known as Buildings 7 and 8 — is anticipated to start in late 2017.

Slow Groovin BBQ Opens on Mall

Slow Groovin BBQ, the popular restaurant that operates seasonally in the hamlet of Marble, opened a second outpost on the Snowmass Village Mall in December, the Aspen Daily News reported. It occupies the Elbert Lane space that most recently housed Turks nightclub, and had been before the 30-year home of the Mountain Dragon bar and restaurant.

Marble and Snowmass have opposite high seasons, which works well for staff. The Marble restaurant is shuttered from November through April. The restaurant’s signature items that will be on the Slow Groovin Slopeside menu include house dry rubs, homemade sauces, “hillbilly nachos” and smoked chicken wings. A mac-and-cheese dish, pork green chili and tomato bisque soup are new items.


Affordable Housing Project Begins in Basalt

An affordable housing project that will provide 56 units at below market rents — many of them well below — broke ground in December, the Aspen Times reported. RealAmerica Companies LLC started construction on the Roaring Fork Apartments, along Highway 82 between Stubbies bar and the office of Harry Teague’s architecture firm.

The project will feature 45 one-bedroom units that will range in rents from $450 to $1,350 per month. They will be 670 square feet. The 11 two-bedroom units will range in price from $550 to $1,450 per month. Those units will be 965 square feet.

RealAmerica is committed to providing all but 12 of the units at rents substantially below the Area Median Income. For example, six of the units will be rented at 30 percent of the AMI, meaning they will rent for between $450 and $550. Another 11 units will be rented at 50 percent of AMI so the cost will be between $810 and $980 per month.


Two-Minute Warm-Up Introduced for Cars

Carbondale trustees plan to cut the amount of time you can leave your car idling from 10 minutes to just two minutes, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. They also agreed to reduce the penalty to a $25 ticket that doesn’t increase with repeat offenses. The current idling ordinance calls for a $100 ticket on the first offense, then $250 on the second and $500 on the third.

This change isn’t official yet, as the town attorney needs to draft ordinance language, but it is expected to be passed on a future consent agenda.

Glenwood Springs

Sales Tax Up Despite Road Closures

Glenwood Springs experienced another 3.8 percent increase in retail sales for October, despite a 10-day closure of the Eighth Street bridge leading to the Glenwood Meadows shopping center and other ongoing work related to the Grand Avenue bridge project, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported.

According to the city’s latest sales tax figures, retail activity was still on pace through 10 months to eclipse last year’s record sales numbers in terms of dollar volume. The city had a record $16.8 million in sales taxes on $455 million in sales for 2015, surpassing pre-recession figures from 2007 and 2008.

Pitkin County

County Passes $102.7 Million Budget

Despite being neck deep in a $25 million renovation and expansion project that would bankrupt lesser locales, the Pitkin County government is in comfortable financial circumstances, based upon the 2017 budget approved by the Board of County Commissioners in December, the Aspen Daily News reported.

The $102.7 million budget — a 4 percent decrease from 2016 — is countered by estimated revenues of about $97 million. That gap will be covered by contingency funds that the county has been keeping in a rainy day account. But, because real estate valuations in the county are down by a small percentage, property taxes — the main source of revenue for the county — will increase by a similar amount — 2.46 percent.

Over the past five years, the county has invested more than $16.8 million on road improvements alone. The county is also spending huge sums of cash on such projects as a relocation and expansion of the 911 dispatch center, building a pedestrian underpass connecting the RFTA stops at the Aspen Business Center and chip-sealing 12 miles of Snowmass and Capitol Creek roads.

County Will Oppose City Dam Rights

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to file a statement of opposition in two water court cases where the city of Aspen is seeking to extend its conditional water rights tied to potential dams and reservoirs on upper Castle and Maroon creeks, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Commissioners Patti Clapper, Michael Owsley and George Newman voted in favor of a resolution that directs the county attorney to file statements of opposition in the two cases, which were opened in water court last month to review the city’s due diligence applications. Board members Steve Child and Rachel Richards voted against the resolution, citing a desire to instead work constructively with the city on exploring alternatives to the two potential dams.

The city has never completed a feasibility study of either reservoir but maintains both potential reservoirs are still vital components of its municipal water supply system. The city originally filed for the water rights in 1965, and has periodically informed the state that it still intends to build the dams and reservoirs if necessary. Its most recent such due diligence application was filed on Oct. 31, 2016, and seeks another period of six years in which to maintain the water rights.

One permit allows storage for 4,567 acre-feet of water behind a 155-foot-tall dam located just below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks, within view of the Maroon Bells. The other right is for 9,062 acre-feet of water storage behind a 170-foot-tall dam on Castle Creek two miles below Ashcroft in an area dotted with wetlands.

Wilderness Workshop and for Western Resource Advocates, along with a private property owner also filed opposition statements in December.

I wish you and your loved ones all the best in health, love and prosperity in 2017!

As always, I invite your input.