Aspen Skiing Co.’s Limelight brand will expand to Boulder with hotel, meeting space
Skico’s Little Nell Hotel Group and CU teaming on project
Aspen Skiing Co. will expand its Limelight Hotel brand outside of a ski resort for the first time.
Skico’s Little Nell Hotel Group announced Tuesday it will team with the University of Colorado Boulder to build a hotel and conference center in Boulder. The proposed hotel is estimated at 250 rooms while there will be 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 15,000-square-foot ballroom.
“The Little Nell Hotel Group will oversee the design, financing and operation of the conference center and hotel,” the joint announcement said.
The Limelight Hotel Boulder will be built on a nearly 3-acre site on the northwest corner of the CU campus, at University Avenue and Broadway. The goal is to break ground in fall 2022 and open in spring 2025.
The hotel will be a “destination for high-profile events and experiences linking the university, research, business and nonprofit communities in Boulder,” the announcement said. “A key planned design feature is a publicly accessible plaza that will create a gathering space for students, neighbors and visitors.”
Skico launched the Limelight brand in 2010 when it purchased the Limelight Lodge in Aspen from the Paas and Woolery families. The former owners renovated the structure but ran into financing difficulties in the 2008 credit crisis. The owners approached Skico and a purchase was completed for the 126-room hotel, including six suites. Since then, Skico has built and opened the Limelight Ketchum in January 2017 and the Limelight Snowmass Base Village in December 2018. Limelight Ketchum has 99 hotel rooms and 14 condominiums. The Limelight Snowmass has 99 hotel rooms and 11 residences.
Ketchum was the group’s first hotel outside of the Roaring Fork Valley. Boulder will be the first project not directly located in a ski resort. That was by design, according to Alinio Azevedo, chief operating officer and managing director of The Little Nell Hotel Group, a privately held hotel investment and management branch of Skico.
“A component of our growth strategy for The Little Nell Hotel Group includes a desire to expand beyond mountain destinations and into markets that are less seasonal and not snow dependent,” Azevedo wrote in an email in response to questions by The Aspen Times. “Yet, these should be places that represent the intersection of nature, culture and recreation — Boulder fits this definition perfectly.”
He said the group is “very excited” to undertake the addition of a large ballroom, something the city of Boulder and the University of Colorado have sought since the mid-2000s.
Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan foreshadowed the interest to add a hotel in an urban market as far back as 2014. He told The Aspen Times at the time that Skico was looking at mountain destination locations and other markets for its hotels.
“We’re also looking at smaller urban locations or the right urban locations, I should say, places where that might fit,” Kaplan said in the 2014 interview.
He later added, “(We) think that properties could do well in those other markets and where they are might help drive business to Aspen and Snowmass.”
Azevedo said Tuesday that the completed Limelight Hotel Boulder would “absolutely” fit in with the Limelight brand.
“Our goal is to build a hotel that can deliver on our brand promises of access, belong and impact as our core guest benefits,” Azevedo said. “We want to create spaces that are authentic to their place and also casual and inviting to the local community. We are designing with the goal to become a focal point within the Boulder community. This is what you’ll find in our existing Limelight properties, and can expect to find at Limelight Hotel Boulder as well.”
There are common threads and consistent design standards applied to the existing and future Limelight properties, he said. That allows the hotel lobbies to evolve into “the living room of the community.”
Neither CU nor The Little Nell Hotel Group would disclose specifically how their partnership came about. The announcement noted that the CU Board of Regents authorized the university in 2019 to enter in a ground lease with a developer on the hotel and conference center site.
The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.