Aspen Highlands base has new owner
November 16, 2007
ASPEN ” The base of Aspen Highlands has been purchased by local businessman Jordan Sarick.
Sarick gained the control over 23,507 square feet of commercial space on Thursday. About 40 percent of the space, or between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet, is vacant.
Sarick declined to disclose the terms of the sale, including the price. However, he said he made an offer earlier this year to Hines, but it was not accepted. Sarick said he’s been negotiating for months.
The property was most recently owned by Hines, its partner Hines Highlands Limited Partnership and Bell Mountain Partners, which owns the Aspen Skiing Co.
Sarick, 37, controls Eastwood Developments, a family-owned real estate development and investment company with ongoing projects and assets in the United States and Canada. Eastwood has been involved in a number of Aspen-area projects, including most recently, the construction of the Thunderbowl Townhomes at Aspen Highlands. Those units are commanding $6 million a piece.
Sarick also was involved in the development of Cerise Ranch in Carbondale and Star Mesa West, which includes five single-family home lots at the W/J Ranch in Woody Creek.
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Sarick’s vision for the base of Aspen Highlands is a bit cloudy at the moment, but he is taking input from everyone who has a stake in the area, including homeowners, merchants, government officials and the Skico.
“I’m all ears,” he said. “We’re open to everything, reasonably speaking.”
What Sarick does know is that what was initially envisioned for Highlands’ base area hasn’t worked. There’s a widely held perception that Highlands struggles to capture the critical mass needed to create vibrancy and a genuine feel.
Aspen Highlands Village was master planned by New York-based architect Robert A.M. Stern, who claimed in a recent book about Hines that Highlands Village is a success.
But not everyone feels that way.
“I don’t think the status quo is working,” Sarick said. “We know it doesn’t work.
“We might have to change the initial vision.”
Completed in 2001, the Aspen Highlands Village mixed-use development includes retail, restaurants, townhomes, community housing, single-family homes and skier facilities.
Sarick said the price point for rent at Aspen Highlands will be between $25 and $30 a square foot, which is much lower than what downtown Aspen commands at between $100 and $150 a square foot.
“I’m not looking to gouge anyone. … Can I say that in Aspen?” Sarick joked. He added that he will actively pursue filling the spaces as soon as possible.
“We’ve got empty space, you’ve got tenants, we’ll take them,” he said, adding he wants the village to be filled with activity, including skiers dancing in their ski boots, and drinking and eating well after the lifts close. “I would love to see those spaces filled with people.”
Sarick grew up in Toronto but vacationed here as a kid and skied Highlands regularly. A former whitewater raft guide, Sarick moved here several years ago. He is married to Shereen, a longtime local who is an ambassador at Highlands and a substitute teacher in the Aspen school district. They have one child and are foster parents.
Sarick said he’s been eyeing Highlands for a long time, recognizing that it’s valuable property at the base of one of the premier ski resorts in North America that hasn’t been given the attention it needs.
“It’s scary,” Sarick said of his multimillion dollar investment. “It’s not a huge deal by Aspen standards, but it’s a huge deal for me, and it’s an important piece of property.”
In negotiating the deal, Sarick said not retaining a restaurant and bar in the village was a deal breaker for Skico officials. In fact, having a restaurant in the village is a condition of the deal.
Currently, there are two restaurants on the mall ” Crust and Z.G. Grill. The Ritz Carlton has three establishments. There also are a few art galleries, and the Skico owns and operates the skier services building. A couple of leases are due to expire next year and others have long-term deals for their spaces, Sarick said.
He said he met with merchants at their association meeting held Friday. Sarick plans to meet with many of the property owners in the area to get their input.
There are many stakeholders in Aspen Highlands ” more than a dozen homeowner associations, a metropolitan district, the city of Aspen, Skico and 1,000 owners of fractional shares in Ritz Carlton condominiums.
Sarick’s family has invested in several properties in Aspen over the years, but this is his first commercial property investment here. Sarick has formed an LLC with a few partners and is financing the Highlands deal through a local bank.
Eastwood Developments is an offshoot of Samuel Sarick Limited, named after Sarick’s father. The company owns and manages a portfolio of buildings that total more than 1.2 million square feet. Tenants range in size from entrepreneurs in less than 1,000 square feet to the Ontario government. The real estate firm also has developments in Toronto, Dallas and Denver, which include small master planned communities, as well as commercial and industrial spaces.
Sarick holds an undergraduate degree from Vassar College and graduate degrees from London School of Economics and Columbia University Graduate School of Business.
The Hines Interests company is the corporate identity of mega-developer Gerald Hines. Hines acquired the ski area from founder Whip Jones at the beginning of the 1993-94 season. Hines immediately arranged a merger with the Skico, and then went on to demolish the aging and funky base village and develop a modern mix of timeshares, luxury homes and affordable housing along with commercial uses.
Sarick said he’s excited to turn the quiet commercial area around.
“I think it could be more than it is,” he said.
Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.