A monopoly in Snowmass
October 11, 2006
With the ink still drying on the purchase of Base Village commercial space from Intrawest, Pat Smith has become the proud owner of nearly all the commercial space in Snowmass Village.The possibility of having what amounts to a monopoly in Snowmass has spurred worries that rents will rise, locals will get kicked out, and Gucci paradise will rise. But many in town see the upside to a single owner of Base Village, Snowmass Town Center and the mall – in the ability to switch tenants as construction is under way.Regardless, it’s been an open question about what kind of developer Pat Smith is and what kind of work his company, WestPac Investments, has done in the past. Smith keeps a very low profile, though he works on major projects.”This is probably the most exposure I’ve given any newspaper in my life,” Smith said in a recent interview. “I just want to do my job and do it well.”Since he was 18, the 54-year-old Smith has been working as a general contractor, real estate broker and developer. He is now one of six principal investors in WestPac, a company with more than a billion dollars worth of projects and 3,400 employees in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Australia.
“Over the years, there are hundreds of projects we’ve developed that we still own,” Smith said. “We acquire land, add value through entitlements, develop property and hold it for a long-term investment.”Westpac’s main investors are spread out among the different locations and work on developments that range from hotels to apartments to office buildings. For each project, various additional investors give money and let WestPac take over. For instance, Smith said four or five people are investing in Snowmass Center, eight or nine in the Snowmass Mall project and three or four in Base Village. “A lot of these guys are in their own businesses and said, ‘I know Pat, I know the property, and I’m willing to invest in Pat and in his company,” Smith said. “When you really think about it, what I am is a manager, to manage the process for the benefit of the community.”In addition to the commercial holdings at Snowmass Village, Smith and WestPac are owners in the Silvertree Hotel, the Snowmass Conference Center and the Wildwood, and minority owners in The Residences at Little Nell (currently under construction),Previously, Smith was based in the firm’s office in San Luis Obispo, Calif. He said he has built 2,000 apartments in Arizona over the past four years and has gone as far afield as the Caribbean island of Antigua to build the St. James Club, a posh resort on 100 acres.”Pat Smith has been a developer in this area for about 10 years or so,” said San Luis Obispo Mayor Dave Romero. “Normally he’s not the frontman, but we’ve had excellent relations with that combined firm.”
One report of closed-door dealing has come out of WestPac’s developments in San Luis Obispo, but Romero said it was in the early stages of a project that is still in the making. So far, he says, there haven’t been any problems. Smith first arrived in Colorado for his role with The Residences at Little Nell, a fractional project at the base of Aspen Mountain that has received press for garnering unheard-of sums in the industry for sales.”This is the best ski country in North America, in my mind. I love being up here,” Smith said. “So I figured I could build a fractional club at the Nell, then I got interested in Snowmass, and it kept growing and growing. I actually didn’t know I would go this deep into it.”The way Smith tells it, he was out here working on the Residences part time while continuing to work on properties in other Western states, such as a 3,400-lot subdivision in Albuquerque, N.M.”It’s all about timing in my business,” Smith said. “Snowmass Center came on first, and I had the ability to acquire it. If I would have stopped there, no one would have even known my name. I would have just been a guy doing a project in Snowmass, and that would have been the end of it.”Next up was the possibility of doing the Snowmass Mall redevelopment, also known as Snowmass West Village. Soon after that, Base Village went up for sale.
“I said, ‘I’m here anyway, doing what I’m doing, so why not be totally immersed in the community instead of just one project.'” Smith said. “I figured, if we want to do a good job at West Village, I needed to think about Base Village.”Smith says he is aware of the concerns voiced by local tenants and wants to keep local owners, though he wouldn’t go into potential rental prices because of the many complications and cost adjustments of construction. Aspen Skiing Co. management holds a positive view of the sale.”It was just serendipity that Pat showed up when the Intrawest/Fortress sale was going on,” said Jim Crown, Skico managing partner. “We weren’t trying to find someone to step into those shoes. He just approached us in a way that made sense.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com