Aspen’s Boomerang Lodge receives new life
August 11, 2009
ASPEN – Citing financial hardship, the developers of the Boomerang Lodge on Monday were granted a three-year extension by the Aspen City Council so they can secure the money to finish the project.
The approval to build 47 hotel rooms, five free-market condos and two affordable housing units was going to run out in October. But upon the request of Steve Stunda, owner and developer of the Boomerang, the council gave him and his partners more time to secure financing, which dried up when the economy collapsed.
Stunda’s Delaware-based development company bought the property for $13.5 million in 2005. The condo-hotel received the city’s approval in August 2006 to develop 44,915 square feet at 500 West Hopkins Ave.
Stunda lost his financing partly because he was delayed by the city of Aspen in getting the necessary building permits. He submitted his plans on May 1, 2007, and once he got approval to demolish, he tore down the existing building thinking he’d get the building permits shortly thereafter.
But hurdles in the city’s building department have left a hole in the ground on the 27,000-square-foot parcel, located on Hopkins Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets, since 2007.
“It was a perfect storm,” Stunda said. “The delays resulted in losing the financing, and then the economy crumbled … the real misfortune is that I was told I would get a series of incremental permits. I was assured that shortly after the demolition that there would be other permits issued.”
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Stunda had originally planned to open the new lodge in December but then pushed it back to this fall.
During the city delays, Stunda’s financing dried up. He also was left with no revenue to collect from the hotel because it had been torn down. Additionally, Stunda said the entire planning and approval process cost him about $2.9 million.
He had asked for five years of vested rights, but Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon recommended three years, given that that is what the state statute calls for.
Bendon said Stunda and his partners have been a good neighbor, and their project meets the needs of the community by providing lodge rooms and protecting a historic property.
The timing of building permit delays and the recession were unfortunate, he added.
“Progress on the redevelopment of the Boomerang property has halted due to the current nationwide economic climate and the inability of the applicant to obtain construction financing for the project,” Bendon wrote in his recommendation to council. “No community benefit would result from the expiration of the project’s vested rights, as such rights are essential to the ability of the applicant to continue to pursue financing and to resume development of the project.”
The redevelopment allowed for a partial demolition of the lodge, saving the east wing as a historic landmark.
Stunda already has prepared the site for new construction, and the excavation hole has been filled in. As a condition of the vested rights extension, the property, including the existing historic structure, must be maintained and will be monitored so it doesn’t fall into a state of disrepair.
Stunda has agreed to reclaim the site, which includes removing a majority of the construction fencing, and regrading and seeding the disturbed area. Fencing will remain around the historically designated portion of the lodge, as required by Stunda’s insurance carrier. The fence will prevent unauthorized access to the building and vandalism, and will secure the outdoor pool area.
Three members of the public, including a neighbor, supported the vested rights extension, saying that leaving it with no approvals could further delay new construction.
However, one neighbor who lives a block away wrote to city officials urging the request be denied.
“If you give special treatment to one concern, it needs to be passed along to others,” the resident wrote via e-mail. “Our business is off as well, and we see no immediate end. How can you help [us] as well?”
Mayor Mick Ireland said he didn’t think Stunda’s project was a case of speculative development and there was a true financial hardship. Other council members agreed, and said they think it’s a good project as approved.