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Aspen’s pedestrian mall gets recognition for being a ‘great public space’

As city officials contemplate how to update and redesign the pedestrian malls in Aspen, the three-block thoroughfare has been named one of the country's "great public spaces" by the American Planning Association.

It was selected because of its emphasis on pedestrians and as a place to gather, according to an announcement made last week.

Designees are selected annually and represent the gold standard for a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement and a vision for the future.

"Public spaces serve a number of functions within a community, from gathering places to recreational venues, and to satisfy these varied community needs requires thoughtful collaboration and planning," said Cynthia Bowen, president of the planning association. "Aspen's pedestrian mall is a national example of how public spaces effectively create a sense of place that creates access and opportunity for all."

That ideal is on the forefront of city planners' minds as they continue their work, which will lead to an overhaul of the Cooper, Hyman, Mill and Galena pedestrian malls.

Aspen City Council this past spring signed off on a conceptual design that includes moving the bathrooms at Wagner Park, reconfiguring outdoor dining spaces and removing the fire pit on Galena Street.

Mayor Steve Skadron said he understands the complexity and importance of protecting downtown Aspen's greatest asset.

"Our malls are vibrant, inviting and beautiful; they calm our busy downtown and they create a gathering place for both locals and visitors," he said. "Aspen wouldn't be Aspen without our pedestrian malls."

The overhaul won't begin until at least 2020 and is necessitated by the aging infrastructure underneath the bricks, which were laid more than 40 years ago.

Utility lines for water, gas, telephone, electric and storm water need to be replaced or upgraded. Simultaneously, city officials say the surface needs to be redone so it meets Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. So the historic bricks, which are in limited supply, will likely be replaced with replicas that can provide an even surface.

Jack Wheeler, the city's capital asset director, said he plans to go in front of council in 2019 to discuss next steps and the challenges of the project.

How it's done and how long it will take will be the subject of community debate. City staff has proposed doing the work in phases, or the mall can be shut down for an entire summer.

"It's a big conversation with the community," Wheeler said.

He is currently working on a master plan, along with a construction feasibility analysis and budget.

The malls were constructed in the late 1970s after great community debate, and a few stops and starts. The initial idea for the pedestrian mall started in the early 1960s, with a couple of experimental street closures.

When the majority of the community finally decided to close the streets to cars, a $1.2 million budget was set for the mall's construction.

A total of 315,000 bricks were acquired to pave the three blocks that would form the mall. All of them came from St. Louis, which was in the process of tearing up and replacing streets that had been paved in the early 20th century.

Purchased for $0.40 each, the bricks cost the city of Aspen a total of $126,000.

They were shipped to Aspen by train and stored in the Rio Grande yard, according to the Colorado Cultural Resource Survey on file with the city.

Those bricks will likely be replaced with replicas that can provide an even surface.


Vote to save the Tabor. Leadville’s iconic Tabor Opera House the only Colorado site selected for national preservation campaign

LEADVILLE — You, yes you, can help save the Tabor Opera House, one of Colorado's iconic historic sites, and all you have to do is click your mouse.

Leadville's Tabor Opera House is the only site in Colorado and one of only 20 across the country selected for the 2018 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets National Historic Preservation Awareness campaign.

If you click consistently — and you can vote once a day — the folks at Save the Tabor can win $150,000 toward rehabilitating their national icon.

Vote through Oct. 26. Pretend it's a Chicago election and vote early and often. It's not complicated: The one with the most votes wins the money.

That $150,000 would go with $500,000 from the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures Historic Preservation Fund awarded to the city of Leadville and the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation. That'll get them started on the first phase of restoration.

But they still have a long way to go. That first phase will cost $1.5 million. It'll cost between $8 million and $10 million total to restore the Tabor to its full glory.

"We are thrilled that this preservation competition will bring awareness to Leadville's historic district and, if we win, the funds earned will help us preserve the facade of the Tabor Opera House for generations to come," said Stephanie Spong, Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation board president.

The opera house has been used continuously since it was built in 1879.

However, it's under constant threat of demolition because of deferred maintenance, weather, crumbling bricks, water and fire risk.

The legend lives

Some say the highest spot in America's highest city is the balcony of the legendary Tabor Opera House.

Perspective like that must be preserved.

A few years ago, the good people of Cloud City started asking what was going to happen to their beloved Tabor.

Their Tabor, because people feel that way.

Sharon Bland's family owned it for 61 years since Sharon's mother, Evelyn Livingston Furman, bought it in 1955 and operated it until she was 84 years old.

Sharon and her husband, Bill Bland, ran it for a while, but finally couldn't do it any longer.

Judy Hinton chaired Leadville's Historic Preservation Commission. She connected former Leadville Mayor Jamie Stuever with Dana Crawford, an historic preservationist in Denver.

They chatted with the Blands and decided the city of Leadville would be the perfect buyer.

Steuver brought the proposal to Leadville City Council. The decision was not without debate, but the council took the bull by the horns to try to raise the money to buy the Tabor. That was October 2015.


Evelyn Livingston Furman moved to Leadville when she was 20 to work as the nanny for the family of a geology professor who was working on a mining venture.

Before long, Leadville's legends captured her heart, especially those involving the Tabor Opera House.

Evelyn married Gordon Furman, a miner, and they lived in a mine shack near the Matchless Mine just above Baby Doe Tabor, who was happy to regale them with opera house stories.

Evelyn bought the Opera House from the Leadville Elks Club in 1955 to keep some guy from leveling it and paving that piece of paradise to put up a parking lot — which is exactly what he wanted to do.

She was a schoolteacher and offered her life savings, around $10,000, but it was only half of what she needed.

A local bank loaned her the rest, with the condition that she and her husband put their furniture and appliance store there.

"Everyone in town and everyone in the family thought she was crazy. But when she got something in her mind, she moved forward with it," Sharon said.

Sharon was 12 years old when they started giving tours for 25 cents each. Tours are now $10 and run every day except Monday. The opera house closes October through May because warm fuzzy feelings are not enough to heat it through a Leadville winter.


Mining magnate Horace Tabor built the massive three-story Tabor, known as "the most perfect place for amusement between Chicago and San Francisco" in 1879 in 100 days.

In the late 1880s, Peter McCourt established the Silver Circuit as a way for acts to travel the region and perform in various opera houses and theaters. McCourt managed the Tabor and was Baby Doe Tabor's older brother.

The Tabor Opera House has hosted entertainers such as Oscar Wilde and Harry Houdini as they made their way from Denver to San Francisco on the Silver Circuit during the mining heyday. Singer Judy Collins played there, and it has been host to countless local events.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Lawsuit: Deteriorating Snowmass-area house plagued by landslide zone

The sellers of a Snowmass Village-area home are being sued on allegations they did not disclose to the buyer that the residence is in a landslide zone.

Roger Hollowell, a longtime area ranch manager, filed suit against sellers Steve and Robin Meyer of New Jersey on Friday in Pitkin County District Court.

Holloway bought the 3,550-square-foot home, located on Medicine Bow Road and built in approximately 1978, for $950,000 in August 2014. He bought the home, however, based on "false and misleading representations" made by the Meyers, who did not disclose the property's latent defects, the suit alleges.

"It's put me and my family in a horrible position," Hollowell said Monday.

The Meyers could not be reached for comment.

"A central issue of this dispute is that Mr. Hollowell invested most of his life savings into this property," the suit says. "As he discussed with Mr. Meyer, Hollowell intended on investing an additional $250,000 into a remodel of the home. After which, he would either sell or remodel the property before the note came due. During the remodel, he would raise his children in the home, which would allow them to be educated in the prestigious Aspen school district. That dream, which was disclosed to Mr. Meyer before Mr. Hollowell purchased the property, is now unrealizable."

Hollowell learned that the house was on shaky ground in spring 2016, when "the symptoms of the defect began manifesting themselves in the home after a relatively strong spring runoff. Stairs bent. Floors swelled. And walls started to crack," alleges the suit, which also notes the Meyers remodeled the home in 2009 to "cosmetically cover up symptoms of the defect in the home."

The purchase contract also stipulated that the Meyers were required to disclose any of the property's latent defects, the suit says.

While Hollowell hired a professional inspector to scrutinize the home before he bought it, the "inspection could not and did not uncover the defect," the suit alleges.

The property's condition had been known to previous owners as far back as 1987, when an individual bought the home at a reduced cost because the sellers disclosed that it was in an active landslide zone, the suit says.

The Meyers, who bought it for $350,000 in 1996, knew of its defects and managed to have the county reduce its assessed value by 10 percent in 1998 because of the defects, the suit says.

The Meyers also told their neighbors about the reduced property taxes, admitting they have "full knowledge of the defect and its effect on the property," the suit says.

Hollowell made a $250,000 down payment when he bought the two-story, wood-frame home, while the Meyers financed the remaining $700,000, the suit says.

Hollowell said he is current on his mortgage payments. He said he hasn't put the property up for sale because "I would take a huge loss."

Hollowell is aiming to have the deal rescinded or force the Meyers to tear down the house and build a new one. The second scenario, Hollowell said, is iffy because there are no guarantees that a new foundation is sustainable because of the slide zone on which it would be built.

"The house is twisting and twisting apart," he said.

Holloway lives there with his wife and three children.

He also expressed frustration that the defect was revealed to previous buyers but not him.

"The disclosure was made to previous owners," he said. "I'm surprised that doesn't get attached to the property."

The suit was filed by Benjamin Johnston of the Glenwood Springs law firm Balcomb & Green PC.


Aspen officials want residential streets cleared of trailers, oversized vehicles

Aspen City Council on Monday made moves to restrict parking in certain areas of town in an effort to clear the streets of vehicles that are being stored for long periods of time.

Under the new law, which will be officially approved by council on second reading at a future date, campers, trailers or other kinds of unattached non-motorized vehicles must remain attached to a car or truck everywhere in town.

However, any resident who is eligible for a residential permit can get as many as three permits a year with each one limited to three days to park an unattached non-motorized vehicle.

"I do believe the unattached vehicles (rule) will eliminate a bunch of storage on the street and make people happy," said Mitch Osur, the city's director of parking and downtown services, adding that those who store their boats and snowmobiles on residential streets likely will be unhappy.

Osur said there are between 30 and 40 unattached vehicles regularly parked on residential streets within city limits.

Council also agreed that oversized vehicles — which include the popular Sprinter vans — should not be eligible for a residential parking pass or guest permit. Although drivers of oversized vehicles may still purchase a day pass at the current $8 daily rate to park in a residential zone.

Oversized vehicles are anything over 24 feet long, 8 feet wide, 8 feet high or a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more.

"It's our biggest complaint," Osur said, adding those types of vehicles crop up in neighborhoods in June, July, August, December and March.

"Most cities don't even allow oversized vehicles" to park for extended periods of time, Osur said.

Under the new law, drivers also will only be able to park in a time-restricted zone once a day during enforcement hours.

And, residents will get four residential parking passes, with one guest pass starting on Nov. 15. Right now, it's five plus one guest pass. In 2019 and beyond, it will be reduced to three, plus one guest permit.

And one resident permit will be issued for a single vehicle either owned by a business located within a residential-permit parking zone.

Also, drivers of electric vehicles (EVs) and neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) will continue to be able to enjoy breaks on parking restrictions levied on traditional cars.

Both types can park for free in residential zones and are exempt from the two-hour parking restriction, and NEVs will be able to park for free in the downtown core until Dec. 31, 2019.

Councilmen Ward Hauenstein and Adam Frisch were in the minority in allowing NEVs to park in the downtown core for free.

They said if a vehicle, no matter what kind it is, is taking a parking space, the driver should pay the same rate as others.

The changes are part of updating the parking provisions in the city code and will become effective Nov. 15 if council passes the ordinance on second reading.


Aspen’s east end will see new housing development

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has approved a development in an east end neighborhood that will add five affordable units to the workforce rental pool.

Bill Boehringer, managing partner of Aspen Hills Investors, is proposing to redevelop a 50-year-old building in the 300 block of Midland Avenue into a blend of affordable housing and free-market units.

The building, which was built in 1965 and condominimized in 1969, currently has eight free-market apartments. And although they are free-market, they have been home to longtime locals for decades either through owner-occupied or rental units.

Boehringer wants to redevelop the property into 14 apartments — eight of which would be affordable and six free-market that are planned to be built to the north and west of the existing building.

The housing board signed off last week on the proposal, with the condition that a development agreement be signed by Boehringer and APCHA, which outlines details of the project. The city's Planning and Zoning Commission has final approval.

Affordable housing is required to mitigate for the free-market development, however, Boehringer is opting out of maximizing his profit margin to accommodate APCHA's needs.

Three current residents, who Boehringer referred to as "legacy tenants," have reached an agreement to purchase their new units, which would be deed restricted as resident-occupied.

Resident-occupied is the highest income category, and the units are the most expensive in APCHA's inventory.

Boehringer has a right under city code to convert all eight units to resident-occupied but because APCHA's preference is to have other category rentals due to their high demand in the community, the developer is agreeing to a compromise.

"We are sympathetic to APCHA's needs but we need to make it work economically," Chris Bendon, the land-use planner representing Boerhinger, told the APCHA board last week. "The margins on this are absolutely razor thin."

The remaining five apartments would be sold and be put into the rental pool. However, the only way that can happen is if APCHA, an employer or nonprofit can buy them and then rent to local residents.

Boehringer would give APCHA the first right of refusal to purchase those units, as well as the three legacy apartments, if the owners decide to sell.

"It's a fairly generous offer," APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky told the board. "I'm appreciative of this opportunity to put quality rental units (into the inventory)."

The purchasing price option for an employer is set at $580,000 per unit, which would be deed restricted as category 5.

That income category was recently created by APCHA, and allows for one person to earn as much as $181,440 a year. Two people is just over $207,000 a year.

Because the category was just created, rental prices haven't been formalized but Kosdrosky on Thursday estimated that they would be between roughly $2,000 and $2,500 for a one-bedroom, and $2,200 and $2,800 for a two-bedroom.

As proposed, there would be six two-bedrooms and two one-bedrooms in the affordable-housing development.

Bendon said the neighborhood, which is at the base of Smuggler Mountain, is becoming gentrified with vacation homes.

"This is the type of property that slowly evaporates and slides into second-home territory," he said.

This project would preserve some of the local flavor, and an opportunity for employers to provide affordable housing to attract and retain employees, he added.

"It's an opportunity and hopefully we see more of it," Bendon said.


Business Monday: Clock ticks for Aspen retailers on 420 E. Hyman

The tenuous nature of commercial tenancies is part of life for a number of downtown Aspen retailers, including a group of them at 420 E. Hyman Ave.

Located in the heart of the Hyman pedestrian mall, the two-story building is slated for redevelopment, but for the time being it appears that it will remain in its existing form until late 2019.

"We're here until through next September (of 2019)," said Fino Docimo, who has run Annette's Mountain Bake Shop with his wife for eight years. They expanded the tiny cafe, which spans roughly 400 square feet, in December to accommodate indoor diners.

Docimo said they negotiated their lease extension Friday morning.

The pet shop CB Paws also remains in the building through the fall of 2019, owner Steve Fante said last week.

Zocalito Latin Bistro, however, closed its doors Saturday after 14 years in the mall.

"They're going to tear the building down and I don't know when," said Mike Beary, owner of Zocalito. "So we've been working on getting our space in Denver."

The city also plans to redevelop downtown's outdoor malls — in 2020 at the earliest — by ripping out the bricks and concrete on parts of Hyman and Cooper avenues, as well as segments of Mill and Galena streets. The city has said the mall is aging and must replace or upgrade the utility lines for water, gas, telephone, electric and stormwater. The brick malls' surfaces also must be updated to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, which means the historic bricks, which are in limited supply, will likely be replaced with replicas providing a smooth, even surface.

Beary said Zocalito will open later this year in downtown Denver with a 2,685-square-foot space, including a patio, on 18th Street.

"We looked at a lot of markets — Austin, Seattle and Denver, and even downvalley at Willits," he said.

The Aspen restaurant, at 1,900 square feet, staffed five to 12 employees, Beary said.

"The Aspen economy is not what it used to be when I came here," he said. "And that puts a lot of pressure on you to stay in business."

The building changed ownership in April 2017 when California-based Downtown 420 LLC bought it for $8.25 million. Downtown 420 is controlled by The Ezralow Cos of Calabasas, California, which didn't respond to a message seeking comment last week.

The landlord has a pending building-permit application in front of the city. The application says the commercial and residential development will cost $4.8 million. The building also comes with city approvals for a third-floor penthouse dating to 2013; the city banned downtown penthouse developments in 2012, but not until after the then-owner of the 420 E. Hyman building submitted their land-use application. The scrape-and-replace project also calls for retail space and affordable housing.


What’s the Big Deal: Circle R Ranch in Woody Creek nets $12.75 million

"What's the Big Deal?" runs Mondays and is based on the most expensive property transaction recorded in Pitkin County through 3 p.m. each Friday.

Price: $12.75 million

Date recorded: Sept. 19

Address: Circle R Road Woody Creek

Subdivision: Flying Dog Ranch/Circle R Ranch

Buyer: MM Rosemary Circle

Seller: Two Mile Ranches I and II LLC, Rosemarys Circle R Ranch West LLC, Rosemarys Circle R Ranch East LLC, Rocky Mountain Serenity Ranches I and II LLC

Features: The 244-acre ranch's six homes combine to have 22 bedrooms and 23 bathrooms. Also included are historic cabins, a swimming pool, stables and horse facilities and a tennis court, among other amenities.

Worth noting: Last week's closing came after the property sold at auction in August. The property was developed by brothers Sam and Charles Wyly in the early 2000s and initially went on the market for $59.5 million after Sam Wyly declared bankruptcy in 2015.

Monday Business Briefs: Hickenlooper appoints Aspen broker to state commission

Aspen broker named to state commission

John Wendt III of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate recently was elected chairman of the Colorado Real Estate Commission for a 1-year term.

His election came after Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed him for a 3-year term. Following the appointment, the real estate commissioners elected him to chair, according to a company announcement.

Wendt, who is managing broker and employing broker of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate, will oversee the five-member commission's duties of regulating the licensing and conduct of real estate brokers.

"We are very fortunate to have John's knowledge, leadership and expertise at Coldwell Banker Mason Morse, and we are confident he will continue to add great value as Chairman of the Colorado Real Estate Commission," said Will Herndon, president of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse. "As someone who has upheld strong ethical standards for other brokers to follow, we are very proud to support John in this role as he protects the public interest and enhances a higher standard of real estate practice among brokers statewide."

Wendt has been practicing real estate for nearly 40 years. He currently manages the firm's Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Redstone offices.

Staying spiritual in business

Aspen Connect will conclude its season of events from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 11 with the presentation "How to Stay Spiritual in Business" at the Aspen Chapel.

Presenters for the evening include Rabbi Itzhak Vardy of Neshama Aspen, parayoga and author Rod Stryker, and Aspen Chapel Minister Nicholas Vesey. The event will be moderated by Lead with Love founder Gina Murdock.

Tickets are donation only in advance and $25 at the door.

For more details, email Jillian@aspenbusinessconnect.com.

Architect firm recognized

Rowland+Broughton Architecture/Urban Design/ Interior Design was recognized with two awards Sept. 7 at the 2018 American Institute of Architects Colorado Design & Honor Awards Gala in Denver.

The firm's Art Barn residential project in Aspen received a Notable in Denver award, and its Victorian Square commercial project received a Notable in the West award.

Carbondale’s DeMoor, Crested Butte’s Kremer win Golden Leaf Half Marathon

Carbondale's Joseph DeMoor didn't have the luxury of taking it easy over the final stretch of Saturday's annual Golden Leaf Half Marathon, a backcountry trail run from Snowmass to Aspen.

Not when he had two people within a minute of him.

Nonetheless, DeMoor held on to win the popular race with a time of 1 hour, 26 minutes, 2 seconds, only 22 seconds ahead of runner-up Galen Burrell of Louisville, Colorado. In third with a time of 1:26:51 was David Glennon of Boulder.

"I was definitely looking over my shoulder a little bit. He was right behind me the whole race, so it kept it competitive," DeMoor said of Burrell.

"He passed me at the last aid station. I think that was at mile 10 and a half. And I just kind of tried to get close to him again and ended up passing him with maybe a half mile to go and was able to hold on for the win."

DeMoor, who grew up in Buena Vista and ran cross country for the University of Colorado in Boulder, was competing in the Golden Leaf for the first time. He's lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for about three years.

Taking the women's half marathon on Saturday was Crested Butte's Stevie Kremer, long an icon in the sport. This was her record seventh win in the Golden Leaf, her last win coming in 2015. The 2016 race was canceled and Kremer did not compete in 2017.

Kremer finished in 1:39:39, well ahead of women's runner-up Kim Baugh of Colorado Springs, who had a time of 1:48:01. In third with a time of 1:48:47 was Lindsey Knast of Philadelphia.

Complete results can be found at http://www.sportstats.us.

For most, the Golden Leaf signifies an end to the local summer running season — the first official day of fall was Saturday — paving the way for colder weather.

"It was a fun race," said DeMoor, who works on Aspen Mountain and drives a snowcat during the winter. "This time of year, I'm just ready for the snow to start flying."


Aspen’s affordable housing program faces budget shortfall

Facing a budget shortfall in the coming years, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority may need to increase fees or seek higher subsidies from local governments, Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky told the agency's citizen board last week.

APCHA's administrative fund has a $2.1 million balance and Kosdrosky said he expects that to go down as the agency invests in internal management systems.

A request for proposals is being sent out this month for what's being called the Housing Information Management System (HIMS).

Because of APCHA's dated systems, it cannot reliably track or monitor the housing inventory with certainty because its operations are paper-based and mostly un-automated, according to Kosdrosky.

HIMS is designed to integrate the major operational components of APCHA into a cohesive information management system with an external user portal.

The rollout of that system, along with associated costs, is estimated to cost roughly $1.4 million.

"If necessary, we'll draw down that fund balance," Kosdrosky said. "Revenues aren't keeping up with expenses."

Kosdrosky told the board that a $290,000 funding gap is projected to begin in 2020 and will slightly increase in ensuing years.

To make up that shortfall, APCHA could increase the sales commissions it collects. Currently it's 2 percent on every sale within the system. Other payments could be raised, as well, including application fees, recertification fees and land-use review fees. Kosdrosky said those are set artificially low.

He said Thursday that an analysis has to be done to determine how much fees would need to be raised to help shore up the gap.

Another option is to ask Pitkin County commissioners and Aspen City Council to increase their annual subsidies to APCHA. They currently split the administrative costs 50-50. The 2018 budget shows that figure to be $320,350 each.

Revenue from fees makes up about two-thirds of the budget and the subsidies one-third.

As both the city and county begin their financial planning for 2019 this fall, Kosdrosky will be presenting APCHA's budget in the coming weeks.

"These are conversations we will have to get consensus from the city and county so that we are going in eyes wide open and address these issues so that we can serve the best interests of the public," he said Thursday.

Kosdrosky also updated the board on a survey APCHA sent to homeowners associations asking them to provide information on their capital reserves and deferred maintenance funds.

Kosdrosky said he is hoping for a better response rate so he is extending the deadline to submit responses. He told the APCHA board Wednesday that 86 surveys were sent out and 28 have been completed, which is a 33 percent completion rate.

The Sept. 14 deadline has been extended indefinitely so that HOAs have more time to respond.

Deficient capital reserves within APCHA's inventory is believed to be a widespread problem, with the poster child being Centennial where there is not enough money to fix deteriorating buildings.

There are 1,654 ownership units within APCHA and at least 86 HOAs.

The letter that Kosdrosky sent to HOAs explains that participating in the survey is voluntary, however, if associations do not participate the HOA may result in becoming ineligible to receive potential financial assistance, should it become available.

The survey asks what each HOA's 2018 annual operating budget is, their budgeted capital reserve annual revenue and what the current capital reserve fund balance is.

APCHA also wants to know the HOA's lowest and highest monthly operating assessments, as well as the high and lows of capital reserve assessment charges and what they are based on.

The survey also asks for basic information, such as the name of the HOA, contact information, how many units are in the building and if they are managed in-house or by a property management company.