Sandwich-Board Signs Get the Slice
Sandwich-board signs that direct pedestrian traffic into nearby businesses will be phased out in Aspen by the end of September 2018 because of new regulations reluctantly passed by Aspen City Council in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Aspen Daily News reported.
Currently, any restaurant or retail business in the commercial core can have a sandwich board if the proprietor gets a city sign permit. There are 92 such permitted signs in Aspen out of 457 eligible businesses, or a 20-percent utilization rate. A 2015 decision by the Supreme Court mandated that municipal sign codes must be “content neutral,” meaning regulations cannot be based on what a sign says. This could upend local sign policy, since it disallows the city’s distinction that some types of businesses may have a sandwich-board sign while others cannot.
Valuation Appeal on Par with Previous Years
Aspen’s Little Nell Hotel and Hotel Jerome are among hundreds of property owners who appealed the revaluations by the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office this summer, the Aspen Times reported. Between 1,500 and 1,600 property owners filed appeals, which is about 10 percent of the total accounts.
The number of appeals this year returned to pre-recession levels. Colorado requires counties to perform a reappraisal of property every other year. The current revaluations reflect real estate sales over a two-year period ending June 30, 2016.
More Than $20 Million in Liens Piling Up for Aspen Club
The general contractor overseeing the redevelopment of the Aspen Club, a high-profile construction project on hold due to finance restructuring, filed a lien claiming it is owed $17.7 million for its services, the Aspen Times reported.
PCL Construction Services’ mechanic’s lien was the ninth filed against the Aspen Club since it halted construction in August. As general contractor, PCL is responsible for paying off its subcontractors on the job.
Since Sept. 12, eight subcontractors have filed mechanics’ liens against both PCL and the Aspen Club. Among the subs filing liens is Basalt-based Meyers & Co. Architectural Metals, which claims it is owed $1.53 million for labor and materials.
Ute Trail Remains Closed Indefinitely
One of the most popular hiking trails in Aspen will remain closed for the foreseeable future while officials figure out how to deal with loose rock at the top of the trail, the Aspen Times reported. The Ute Trail, which snakes steeply up Ute Mountain on Aspen Mountain’s east side, has been closed for about two-and-a-half weeks after a half-dozen large boulders came tumbling down to the bottom during a thunderstorm.
The rocks broke loose from Ute Rock, the large rock formation at the top of the trail that offers stunning views of Aspen and the surrounding area and some tumbled all the way across Ute Avenue. The trail remains closed while geologists determine if they need to knock more rocks down as a safety precaution.
Viceroy Closing for 2-Month, $3.5 Million Remodel
The Viceroy Hotel in Snowmass Village will close this fall to begin a $3.5 million remodel that is expected to be completed by its high-season reopening date of Dec. 15. The upgrades to the property that debuted on the Snowmass scene in 2009 are concentrated in public areas, including the lobby, as well as the main, high-end Eight K restaurant, which has traditionally featured a menu of “new American fare.”
According to the release from Snowmass Base Village, which owns the luxury hotel as part of its $56.5 million Base Village purchase from Related Cos. in Dec. 2016, restaurateur Richard Sandoval will be at the helm of “a remodeled and reconcepted restaurant, Toro.” Sandoval’s restaurant group already operates the Venga Venga cantina and tequila bar on the Snowmass Village Mall.
A new coffee shop will also debut within the Viceroy this winter and is to be called Café V. On tap to receive a “refresh” are the main hotel lobby, “making it a more welcoming and cozy spot to gather,” and the Viceroy’s primary fitness center. In the future, the fitness area will reopen with “extensive natural light and all new state-of-the-art equipment.”
Free-Market Housing Will Fund Snowmass Center
The Snowmass Center will use free market housing rather than a large increase in commercial space as the economic driver for its proposed major redevelopment, the Aspen Daily News reported.
The proposal by Eastwood Snowmass Investors, which acquired the property in 2016 for $16 million, calls for a more than four-fold increase in square footage at the locally serving business node from its present 53,000 square feet to include 228,000 square feet of new development spanning 5.13 acres.
Of that total, 20,160 new square feet, for a total of about 73,000 square feet, would be developed as commercial space, with just shy of 11,000 square feet designated for 11 units of employee housing built on a second story above the existing Snowmass Center.
Habitat for Humanity Propose 27-Unit Development
A proposal to construct a 27-unit development on eight acres adjacent Basalt High School would be the biggest project in the history of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity if approved, the Aspen Daily News reported.
Basalt Vista, which has been in the conceptual works since 2015, will consist of nine duplexes and three triplexes. Fifteen of the units would be reserved for teachers employed by the Roaring Fork School District. The remaining 12 units would be made available to other workers in the Roaring Fork Valley. Those who wish to purchase units would have to enter a lottery, the details of which have yet to be established. The residences will range in size from 1,200-1,600 square feet. There will be 2, 3 and 4-bedroom models. Cost for the units is projected to run between $245,000 and $345,000.
200-Plus Affordable-Housing Units Coming to Basalt
Basalt and El Jebel will add 213 affordable-housing units before winter is over and the number could swell to 342 in the not-too-distant future, the Aspen Times reported.
Mariner Real Estate Management led the surge by completing 50 apartments and 27 condominiums at Willits Town Center this summer. The apartments are being rented to qualified members of the public. Most of the condos were purchased by the Roaring Fork School District for rental to teachers and staff. Both complexes are open and partially occupied.
Close on its heels is the expansion of the El Jebel Mobile Home Park. Crawford Properties LLC added five pre-fabricated homes last winter and is in the process of adding another 41 residences. They will be ready to occupy in November. The company vetted a waiting list of 304 households to select tenants. Those 127 units at Willits and El Jebel will make an immediate dent in the affordable-housing need. Other projects are on the horizon.
City Market Delayed Until at Least 2019
City Market has requested a seventh extension for its proposed new grocery store in Carbondale. And the town has gotten word that Kroger, City Market’s parent, plans to draw the construction project out into 2019, the Aspen Times reported.
Tentative plans are for the site work — the buried infrastructure, water lines, ditch work and all the civil construction — to begin in the fall of 2018, and construction of the building would begin in spring 2019.
Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer, has struggled with food price deflation the past couple years and cut back on capital projects. The town approved this project a year and a half ago and has since been waiting on the company to close on the property.
Business Starting to See Impacts of Bridge Closure
A rough summer and fall for retail sales and dining was expected because of bridge construction and the Colorado 82 detour, and businesses are already reporting lagging revenue since the Grand Avenue Bridge closed on Aug. 18, the Glenwood Post Independent reported.
The summer got off to an inauspicious start in June, when sales were down nearly 3.7 percent compared with June 2016. For the year to date, sales tax receipts are trending barely ahead of last year, by just 0.53 percent, with July and August still to be reported. And the more difficult months related to the bridge closure and traffic snarls lie ahead.
On the positive side, tourism numbers held steady through the early part of the summer. The city’s special accommodations tax on overnight stays was up 10.1 percent in June, and for the year to date is running about 6.2 percent ahead of 2016.
Pitkin County Real Estate Sales Remain Robust
Real estate sales in Pitkin County are on track to approach 2015’s $2 billion-plus year, thanks in part to a torrid September that saw a $29 million sale of the former Pfister property on West Buttermilk, the Aspen Daily News reported.
The 44.6-acre parcel with a 13,400-square-foot main house, guesthouse and horse stable sold to a buyer identified recently in The Wall Street Journal as Lachlan Murdoch, the 46-year-old co-chair of News Corp., the media conglomerate founded by his father, Rupert Murdoch.
September in Pitkin County continued a year that’s been robust since its start, a revival that began in late 2016, according to figures from Land Title and the multiple listing service. February was the only month in 2017 in which sales were down compared to the same month last year. During 2016, $1.36 billion worth of property changed hands, a decline compared to 2015’s $2 billion-plus worth of sales.
PitCo Won’t Participate in Regional Housing
Pitkin County commissioners declined to join a proposed Roaring Fork Valley regional housing authority and said their focus needs to be on the local agency’s issues, the Aspen Times reported. The five county board members agreed that more affordable housing is needed up and down the valley and didn’t rule out possibly participating in future projects with the proposed authority if it comes to fruition.
However, the main stumbling block for the five commissioners was that the proposed regional body would have the power to approve affordable-housing developments in Pitkin County that don’t conform to the county’s land-use code or affordable-housing mitigation rules.