Mel Blumenthal
Second View
Snowmass Village, CO Colorado

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May 8, 2012
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Mel Blumenthal: A 180-degree turn on Base Village

SNOWMASS VILLAGE - By the time this edition of the Sun hits the stands, Paulette and I will be on our way to Spain to meet with friends from Basalt who will be cruising the Mediterranean with us from Barcelona to Rome.

It has been a long time since we've been on a cruise ship, and I'm a bit nervous what with all the recent stories of pirates, bacterial infections and collisions with foreign objects, but everyone tells me not to worry so I guess I'll just stop worrying. I have, however, decided to pack a flashlight just in case we lose power, which I'm told happens from time to time, particularly if the ship hits something in its path due to the captain's late-night partying with the crew. I also thought it might be a good idea to brush up on my swimming technique. You never know who I might piss off and whether they might be tempted to reduce their stress factor and throw me overboard.

Between packing the cruise wear, stocking up on Euros, trying to find our old passports and generally making my wife crazy with all my incessant questions regarding trip details, I've been pondering last week's good news.

Related Cos.- and the Hypo Real Estate-led bank group finally settled their differences and the various lawsuits between them concerning Base Village. Even better, they've entered into an agreement whereby Related will reacquire full ownership of all the various Base Village properties they lost in last year's foreclosure sale to the banks.

Some of you who regularly follow my biweekly commentary have been subjected in the past to heavy doses of criticism leveled at Related over their botched handling of the Base Village affair and thus might be wondering why my sudden 180-degree change of view and upbeat outlook with Related at the helm again.

The skeptics amongst you might say it's just in recognition of this, the 180th edition of my column, but that's only an interesting coincidence. After considering all the other suitors who have been kicking the Base Village tires for quite some time, I've come to the conclusion that Related appears to be our best and possibly only hope to get Base Village completed in our lifetime.

That's not to say that the completed project will conform to the same development plan that was approved more than eight years ago on which construction commenced during good times, halted during the Great Recession years and optimistically stands ready to recommence as soon as next spring if all the revised plans and other substantial details are agreed on and approved in an expeditious manner.

In all likelihood, the entire community along with the Planning Department, Planning Commission and Town Council will be devoting many hours to intense conversation and negotiation with Related in order to come up with a mutually acceptable plan for the completion of Base Village based on the new economic realities emerging in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

In addition, there's the stressful problem of the initial 10-year vested development rights currently set to expire in 2014. Obviously, there's no way that all the work needed to be completed in order for Related to get an automatic 10-year extension can happen at this point. Thus the Town has a good deal of leverage in dealing that Related which we didn't have during the first go around with them.

I'm not suggesting that we should take undue or unfair advantage of our strengthened position going forward, since it's imperative that we work together collaboratively in order to complete the build out of Base Village in the most effective and mutually beneficial way possible.

One key factor giving me confidence that Related is the best positioned developer of the known candidates to get the job done is that its local team will continue to be led by Dwayne Romero, president of Related, Colorado. Through all of our past travails with Related's New York-based corporate hierarchy, the only solid rock of true integrity and leadership was Dwayne and his locally based executive team. They stuck it out and took all the slings and arrows in a truly responsible and responsive fashion.

Hopefully the New York suits have learned their lesson and will give Dwayne all the authority and backing he needs to pull this massive completion effort off in a way that maximizes the benefits to the entire community as well as to Related. I'm confident that Dwayne and his team can do it.

And the icing on the cake is all the Real Estate Transfer Tax

revenue that should soon come pouring into the Town's treasury once the deal between Related and the banks closes this fall. The powers that be must be salivating at the thought of what they might do with all the newly found treasure.

Whatever residual bad feelings there may still be amongst some in the community towards Related the reality is that they still own the Snowmass Center, most of the Mall properties, Mountain Chalet, Snowmass Inn and soon Base Village once again. In order for us to get back to our original plan of ultimately redeveloping all of these aging properties in an integrated and cohesive manner I think it is best for the community that ownership of all these properties reside in a single entity, rather than trying to corral a group of disparate owners with varying interests and competing agendas into agreeing a common vision and then efficiently executing it.

Hopefully for all of us, I'll be proven right.

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The Aspen Times Updated May 8, 2012 06:26PM Published May 8, 2012 06:21PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.