Real Estate in the News
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
Forest Service Approves New Lift 1A
The White River National Forest signed off on a new Lift 1A, which will connect, possibly via a gondola, a redeveloped western base area with a revitalized Ruthie’s restaurant on Aspen Mountain, the Aspen Daily News reported. While a Forest Service press release says that the new lift could be installed as soon as this summer, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said that the timing of the construction is dependent on the progress of a land use application for a hotel project at the bottom of the hill, which will be designed around the new lift terminal. The forthcoming application, from Norway Island Partners for the Gorsuch Haus project, is expected to be delivered to city hall in early January and will require review by the planning and zoning commission and city council. The lift alignment is mostly on private land, except for a few acres at the top of the span which will be approximately 3,600 feet long with a vertical rise of 1,390 feet. The new lift will have a capacity of 1,200 riders per hour. Aspen is set to host the FIS World Championship Finals in 2017, but race officials have warned that the current conditions in the Lift 1A area could cause them to pull out. A new high-speed lift would help bring the area up to adequate standards.
Largest Single-Family Home Sale of the Year is $29.5 Million
A Red Mountain Ranch home sold for $29.5 million in December, making it the most expensive single-family home sale in 2015, the Aspen Times reported. The 16,961-square-foot house, known as the Summit House, was listed for $65 million in 2014. The most expensive deal in Pitkin County in 2015 was the $72.5 million sale of the Hotel Jerome and former Aspen Times building.
Lodge Remodel and Redevelopment on the Rise
After years of relative quiet on the hotel development front, Aspen finds itself with 13 lodging projects proposed or underway, the Aspen Daily News reported. The list runs the gamut from new timeshare lodges that have been sitting on the shelf for five years or more like the Dancing Bear condominiums, to complete redevelopments of major downtown hotels (Sky Hotel and Molly Gibson), new boutique concepts (Base 1) and some ideas that have come out of left field (vague hotel development between 5th and 7th under Shadow Mountain that would require annexation from the city). Many include a free-market real estate component.
Base Village Gets Green Light
After a tumultuous month in Snowmass, Base Village received its final approval from the Snowmass Village Town Council at the end of December, as a ‘super-majority’ of the seated members voted 4-1 in favor of the plan, the Aspen Daily News reported. However, the approvals don’t mean that construction will begin immediately. Developers previously told council that 2016 construction would consist of just two roundabout traffic circles with up to five buildings slated to begin the following year. While the approval opens the door for Aspen Skiing Co. to buy Lot 2 from Related to build the Limelight Snowmass, CEO Mike Kaplan said it won’t break ground on the hotel next year and only maybe in 2017, due to ownership’s concerns about the project’s viability. He expressed concerns that the approval process took 14 months, during which construction costs have gone up $10 million. All of this comes following the October announcement that Vail Valley-based East West Partners would purchase the remaining assets from Related Colorado. But in mid-December both East West and Related announced the deal fell through, leaving Related to remain the current owner of Base Village.
Willits Expansion Given Initial Approval
The Basalt Town Council gave Willits Town Center the first of two approvals it needs to expand by 91,000 square feet, the Aspen Times reported in December. The council voted 4-2 to allow an extra 31,500 square feet of residential space and 59,500 square feet of commercial space, mostly retail. Basalt approved 500,000 square feet of residential and commercial space in Willits Town Center in 2001. About half has been developed. The additional square footage is needed because Willits hasn’t developed as planned over the past 14 years; opportunities to house a second-floor outpost of Valley View Hospital and the 113-room Element Hotel both came up, eliminating previously approved retail space. A second approval hearing will be held Jan. 12.
Element Hotel Has Busy First Month
The midvalley Element Hotel was near capacity much of December, teeming with holiday guests, ski racers and relatives of local families, the Aspen Daily News reported. The 113-room midvalley property quietly opened on Dec. 8. A snowball’s throw from Whole Foods and the Willits Town Center, Element Basalt bills itself as a contemporary mid-range hotel near Aspen and Snowmass. It operates under a Westin flag, and has accommodations in 16 markets, including Europe and China. During Element Basalt’s first month of operation, it has promoted a $69 rate for locals (proof of residency required) to introduce the property to the greater community. The sold-out week of occupancy that started Dec. 27 features holiday rates for the studios, one and two-bedroom units ranging from $120 to $159. That includes a full breakfast and wine hour offered Monday-Thursday.
Kroger Submits Plans for New Store
The owner of King Soopers and City Market chains in Colorado, Kroger, submitted a development plan to build a new grocery store on the central portion of the property known as the Crystal River Market Place (CRMP), located along the west side of Highway 133 and the north side of West Main Street in Carbondale, the Sopris Sun reported. The present City Market proposal, known as the Carbondale Marketplace, has been in the works for about a year and calls for development on three distinct lots. The current City Market in Carbondale is located in Crystal Village Plaza, on the southwest corner of Highway 133 and Main Street, across Main Street from the new store’s site.The current owner of Crystal Village Plaza, The Kroenke Group (founded by billionaire Stan Kroenke) has announced no development plans for the plaza, although officials have said in the past that the existing City Market store would be closed down and repurposed into another use if the Carbondale Marketplace plan is approved by the town. The adjoining parcels for the new grocery store could house a gas station, restaurant and additional service store.
Carbondale Mulls Lighting Ban
Carbondale trustees are weighing an ordinance that would preserve the view of the night sky but may also cost businesses and homeowners, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. The town’s Planning and Zoning board recommended changing the code to ban a variety of lighting types, such as floodlights, LEDs, LCDs, animated signs and signs with no diffusion of their light source. The previous lighting code, approved in 2003, had dark sky ideals in mind but didn’t anticipate changes in lighting technology such as LED lighting. LEDs use a lighting technology that is more energy efficient but creates a brighter light.
Garfield County One of Fastest Growing in the State
Garfield County is projected to have a population of 108,000 by 2040, up an astonishing 83 percent from just under 59,000 residents now, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported, based on finding from a Rocky Mountain PBS News analysis. According to the same report, the U.S. Census Bureau shows seven of the 10 fastest-growing counties will be on the Western Slope, including Garfield, Eagle and Routt counties. The numbers show an estimated 7.8 million people will call Colorado home by 2040, an increase of about 2.3 million. All that growth will take a toll on the state’s infrastructure as well as water and other natural resources.
GarCo Real Estate Up
Garfield County registered $445 million in total real estate sales from January through October, a 7.5 percent increase over the same period in 2014, the Aspen Times reported. The report, issues by Land Title Guarantee Co., also noted that October saw $52.9 million in total sales, a 27.1 decrease from October 2014. While sales were down in October, Garfield saw 162 transactions that month, up 29.6 percent from October 2014.
Pitman County Sales Top $2 Billion
Property sales in Pitkin County hit $2 billion in 2015, the first time since 2007, the Aspen Times reported. Pitkin County’s record for dollar volume of real estate sales, $2.64 billion, was set in 2006. The $2 billion mark also was eclipsed in 2005 and 2007 before the recession struck, forcing a contraction of longtime real estate firms and layoffs among many local businesses dependent, either directly or indirectly, on the industry. From 2009 to 2011, total sales volume in Pitkin County dropped below $1 billion. But since 2012, it has topped that mark, with 2014 generating nearly $1.7 billion in sales. A major component of the high sales volume was the luxury sector last year. In 2015, 36 property deals in Pitkin County were worth at least $10 million, nine of which bettered $20 million. Last year, three transactions were north of $20 million. Downtown Aspen, Red Mountain and the West End are seller’s markets; west of town is more of a buyer’s market, say officials.
Airport Redesign Plans Narrowed to Two
The field of four potential concepts for the new terminal at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport was narrowed to two, and will now move forward in an environmental assessment before the actual design is finalized, the Aspen Daily News reported. The four original designs included single-story, split-level, nested, and two-story, and using input from a long-running public process, the nested option was the favorite and will now incorporate the best features of the two-story design. On its own, the nested design would place the terminal close to the grade of Highway 82, reduce visual impacts, and integrate with a planned parking structure. But it would also require the addition of stairways, and escalators or elevators, increasing the cost. The beneficial aspect of the two-story model is that the levels can be stacked flat to allow for future expansion. Pitkin County Commissioners were in favor of scrapping jet bridges. After more than 90 public meetings to date, more public comment meetings are planned for February.