Mel Blumenthal
Snowmass Village, CO, Colorado

Back to: News
November 6, 2012
Follow News

Mel Blumenthal: A little refresher on the history of Base Village deals

As you read this week's column there's good news in the air ... a year and a half of distasteful electioneering with accusations back and forth between candidates, issue proponents/detractors and friends and neighbors concerning our local, state and national elections is finally over ... that is unless there are tied votes, legal challenges or, worst of all, allegations of voter fraud that put final determinations in question, and then god forbid we'll just have to endure this pain a while longer. The only comfort in all of this is that the snow is coming and I'm way beyond caring about any further election rhetoric.

Speaking of rhetoric, Roger Marolt's column in last week's edition of the Sun caught my eye. I always enjoy seeing my name pop up in Roger's column - my 15 minutes in the spotlight.

Roger states that none of the people who were behind Base Village and all that came about as a result of the approvals handed to Aspen Skiing Co. and then Related are around anymore to talk about it except for me, and he alleges that I claim not to remember.

Not true, Roger, I remember most, if not all, of it or know where to go to jog my memory if need be.

During one of my long bike rides last week on our 42-mile bike path adjacent to the beautiful Pacific Ocean I came up with a doozy of a memory fart that I guess even Roger couldn't pass through his brain cells and his other gas-producing organs that are much younger than mine.

Any of you remember Condition No. 7 contained in the Base Village approval documents? If not, I'll remind you that was the provision that confirmed what is now the Viceroy Hotel was originally agreed by Skico to be a nationally recognized hotel such as a Westin, Hyatt or Hilton. But, lo and behold, Skico quickly bailed out of Base Village as soon as it received its development approval and Related, which forked over $169 million to them for all of Base Village, fell in love with the more upscale Viceroy chain.

So Related then petitions our Town Council for a change in the granted approvals and finds out our elected representatives are not eager to make the requested change, but for a pound or two of flesh they could be persuaded. So after a bit of arm-twisting Related reluctantly agrees to build another condominium conference hotel in the West Village Mall area (also to be a Westin, Hyatt or Hilton) containing not less than 250 hotel rooms, not later than April 15, 2017.

The penalty Related has to pay the town for not doing so is $8 million, and in addition Related loses its ability to build anything in excess of 50 percent of the total rentable and/or saleable floor area in the West Village. Both economically significant penalties.

As we know, Related then loses Base Village in a foreclosure sale, but now they're back in the game and according to our town attorney they're still bound by the obligations stated above as successors and assigns of the original Base Village approvals and amendments.

But in the interim along comes David Wasserman and Starwood Capital, which for about $100 million buys and converts the shabby Silvertree into a 250-room, four-star conference hotel with an upgraded conference center and totally refurbished 150-room Wildwood Lodge.

Who needs or can economically justify construction of another huge conference hotel in the Mall area? Certainly not Related. So it looks like they'll be facing huge economic penalties come 2017, not that far away in development and construction time.

In addition as part of the original Base Village approval, Related is committed to building an aqua center in the middle of Base Village as a community benefit, but in the intervening years the town has already built a state-of-the-art recreation and aqua center at the entrance to town. Obviously, the community doesn't need another competing aqua center that will only cannibalize the membership and use of the town's current facility and thus cause the town to further increase its subsidization of our town-owned-and-operated facility.

Instead of Related just pissing away all that money in penalties, lost Mall development opportunities and construction of an unnecessary aqua center why not come up with a better plan for something our resort community needs a lot more?

For purposes of settling this mess, I'd recommend that the town consider releasing Related from its obligation to build the aqua center, the conference hotel and the $8 million penalty payment as well as allow them to build out 100 percent of their rentable and saleable West Village floor area all in exchange for Related building our much dreamed of and desired multi-purpose Performing Arts/Ice Age Discovery Center: a multiuse facility for the year-round live performance of music, theater, and dance and film exhibition as well as an exhibit and educational center housing our Ice Age discovery.

I think it would be productive and a great benefit to our resort community as well as Related to commence this dialogue in the near future as Related begins to firm up its plans for the completion of Base Village and redevelopment of the 85 percent of the Mall area that they own.

If you'd like to weigh in on these thoughts you can reach me at">class="NormalParagraphStyle">

Stories you may be interested in

The Aspen Times Updated Nov 6, 2012 02:43PM Published Nov 6, 2012 02:40PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.