Real Estate in the News – July 2017


Aspen Real Estate on the Rebound

As 2017 approaches its halfway mark, a strong sales rebound for Aspen following last year’s pre-election swoon is afoot, the Aspen Daily News reported. Downtown Aspen prices continue to climb and there seems no limit on demand for homes and condos within walking distance to the core, especially those with modern aesthetics, according to several recently published market analyses.

A recent report states that Aspen single-family home sales through April 2017 were $192 million; in 2016 for this same time period single family home sales totaled $57 million. Condo dollar sales in Aspen were up 11 percent year-over-year, $94 million through April 2017 as compared to $84 million through April 2016.

$22 Million Land Sale May Have Set Record

An 11-acre property on lower Red Mountain owned by the same family for more than a half century sold for $22 million, a price that may be the most expensive land sale ever for a single lot in Aspen, according to the Aspen Daily News.

The sale closed June 27 and includes 11.721 acres with a legal address of 101 American Lane, and a 6,600-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bath home built in 1965 and improved in 1985.

It’s been the residence for more than 50 years of Houston socialite and Aspen Hall of Fame inductee Marian Rubey Lyeth Davis, whose family started Maxwell House Coffee, and her four children. Catherine Rubey, Karen Rubey, Robert Rubey and the late Tina Rubey Baar’s son were listed with Marian Rubey as the property’s former owners.

Hauenstein Elected to Council in Runoff Vote

Ward Hauenstein edged Torre by 29 votes to win Aspen City Council election, becoming the first candidate in recent memory to come from behind in a runoff, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Hauenstein, a longtime local who runs an IT consulting business, credited his victory, in which he overcame Torre’s 78-vote advantage in the May 2 first round of voting, to retail politicking. He said he spent the last few days calling registered voters who had not cast a ballot, trying to get people to the polls. It paid off with a narrow victory. His 928 votes represented 50.7 percent of the total turnout of 1,827 votes.

Aspen Increases Smoking Age from 18 to 21

Aspen City Council unanimously approved raising the age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21 — becoming the first city in the state to do so — in hopes of reducing the number of new smokers while preventing cigarettes from reaching the high school, the Aspen Daily News reported. The measure, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires any tobacco retailer to obtain a license. It also means the city will forgo about $75,000 per year in sales tax, since the state of Colorado will not remit a portion of the tax collected on cigarettes back to local communities that enact their own cigarette regulations.
The measure applies to all tobacco products, including “electronic cigarettes,” which burn nicotine-infused concentrates instead of leaf tobacco. E-cigs are credited with reversing a decades-long decline in youth smoking over the past few years.

Boomerang Lodge Back on Board

The long-stalled Boomerang Lodge redevelopment project is under contract to a new buyer who wants to alter the proposed room configuration, among other changes, the Aspen Daily News reported.ME Aspen Ventures One, a corporation formed in February tied to Fairfield, N.J.-based Woodmont Properties, is under contract to purchase the lot and would like to amend the approved development plans that come with it. Development plans are for a 46,140-square-foot building containing 23 lodge units with 45 keys, five free market condos and two affordable housing units. The amended proposal reduces the number of units from 39 to 23, with plans to design lock-off, flexible-use units. The new owner is planning to bring in Two Roads Hospitality as operator of the redeveloped property. Two Roads is a new company resulting from the merger of Destination Hotels, which operates the Gant in Aspen, and Commune Hotels and Resorts.


SkiCo Gets Final Approval for Adventure Center
Aspen Skiing Co. secured final approval to build a summer adventure center at Snowmass Ski Area that will feature everything from a year-round alpine coaster ride to an expanded trail network for hiking and biking, the Aspen Times reported.

Skico is calling the adventure center the Lost Forest. In addition to the coaster and trails it will feature a canopy tour, challenge course and climbing wall. All components will open in summer 2018 on the Elk Camp section of the mountain. The Breathtaker Coaster — the only year-round element in the plan — will open in December.

Employee Housing Demand Continues to Grow

If Snowmass Village wants to satisfy its future workforce housing goals, it will need an additional 383 units, the Aspen Daily News reported. While that figure is actually lower than what was contained in the town’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan, which tapped the need at 474 more housing units, the idea of allowing that much development is stressing out some policymakers.

If each of the units average about 750 square feet, that could add a total of 270,000 square feet of development to the housing inventory. It’s close to a 90 percent increase over what’s been built to date.
Where to put that much housing within the town borders, not to mention how to pay for an estimated $108 million in construction (based upon a rate of $400-per-square-foot to build) are considered additional variables that need further discussion. That could prompt rethinking the land use requirements and goal of housing 60 percent of the town employees who work in Snowmass Village. In the past 17 years, that mark has ranged from housing 45 percent to 100 percent of local workers.


Verizon Coverage to Improve in Midvalley

Midvalley residents, visitors and business owners who rely on Verizon Wireless coverage might have relief from poor service by fall, the Aspen Daily News reported. Basalt Town Council granted the first of two required approvals for a 70-foot-tall telecommunications pole camouflaged as a “faux pine tree.” The pole will be located at 155 Park Ave. in the Basalt Industrial Park, where businesses such as Valley Lumber are located.

Verizon customers in the Willits Town Center and the surrounding residential neighborhoods, Sopris Village, the Basalt Industrial Park and other areas grouse about poor coverage, dropped calls and slow data retrieval. Many customers contend that poor service has deteriorated to bad service over the past six months.


Prince Creek Trail Receives Lots of Comments

A proposal for a mile-long trail along Prince Creek Road is generating widespread public comment, the Aspen Daily News reported. More than 100 people have thus far submitted comments on the Prince Creek Management Planning process being conducted by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails is planning the trail along part of Prince Creek Road to ease congestion between bikers, pedestrians and vehicle traffic. The goal is to construct the trail this year, with additional parking facilities being planned in the near future. Most of the comments were in support of the upgraded trail system.

Historic Ranch Sells, May Become Polo Grounds

One of the last historic ranches between Aspen and Glenwood Springs recently sold for $7.2 million, according to the Sopris Sun. Variously known in recent years as the TCI Lane Ranch and McClure River Ranch, the 100-acre parcel sits on the south side of Highway 82 along the Roaring Fork River, just upvalley from Catherine Store.
Marc Ganzi, who co-founded the Aspen Valley Polo Club at Catherine Store with his wife, Melissa, according to published reports, confirmed that a partnership affiliated with the club recently acquired the Ace Lane property.

Glenwood Springs Grand Avenue Bridge Set to Close Aug. 14

The largest infrastructure project in western Colorado in at least 25 years will go full throttle come mid-August, when the Grand Avenue Bridge connecting Glenwood Springs over I-70 will close for 95 days so that construction crews can replace it, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Key to reducing the traffic delays is taking cars off the road in Glenwood Springs. Up to 35 percent fewer vehicles, or about 700 cars less an hour during the peak periods of 6:30 a.m. – 9 a.m. and 3:30 – 6:30 p.m., will be needed to keep delays to about 15 minutes during crunch times. With zero reduction of cars, one-hour delays in each direction could be the new reality during the bridge redo.

Traveling north or to west Glenwood, and for I-70 access, motorists will see access on Highway 82 reduced to one lane at 27th Street. From there, traffic will inch through town and be guided to turn left on Eighth Street, right on Midland Avenue and eventually to I-70, exit 114.

Those who are traveling south to Carbondale, Basalt or Aspen from I-70 will use exit 114 to Midland Avenue, followed by a left onto Eighth Street, right to Colorado Avenue, left to Ninth Street and right onto Grand Avenue to access downtown or to continue up valley.

Pitkin County

Ski Business as Usual

Despite wild weather fluctuations and weaker international business, Aspen Skiing Co.’s ticket sales for the 2016-17 season were almost dead even with last year, the Aspen Daily News reported. The Aspen-Snowmass season total was off by just 0.78 percent when compared to 2015-16, and ahead of the company’s five-year average.

Highlands and Snowmass had small year-over-year increases, with Aspen Mountain “down a little” and Buttermilk off by the most. SkiCo does not release actual skier visits from the four mountains. Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs reported visits were down 4 percent.

Colorado Ski Country USA, the umbrella organization for 22 of the state’s ski areas, reported sales of 7.3 million lift tickets during 2016-17, which the organization said is the second-best season on record.

Unemployment Rate Well Below National Average

The latest economic report issued by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) shows unemployment numbers for this area are well below both national and state averages, the Aspen Daily News reported. The overall regional unemployment rate was 1.7 percent for April — the latest figures available — compared to 2.3 percent the year before.

According to NWCCOG’s June 2017 Economic Update, the national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in April 2017, while Colorado’s unemployment rate was 2.3 percent during April. Pitkin County had the highest unemployment rate in NWCCOG’s region, with 2.3 percent unemployment in April, down from 3.2 percent in April 2016.