Bar/X Ranch sells for $48.5 million |

Bar/X Ranch sells for $48.5 million

Janet Urquhart

The Bar/X Ranch on the outskirts of Aspen has changed hands for $48.5 million – a record sum for open land in a resort known for staggering real estate prices.”I’m not sure if that’s a dubious distinction or a sign of our belief in the market,” said developer Greg Hills, spokesman for buyer Two Stage Road LLC, which won a bidding war for the coveted property. The ranch already has approvals for 13 single-family homes within the Aspen city limits.The confidence in the market was apparently justified; the lots were all reserved within two weeks once word that they were available began circulating in March.Two Stage Road LLC involves a pair of managing partners – Aspen-based Austin Lawrence Partners, represented by Hills, and Apollo Real Estate Advisors of New York. The investment group purchased the property from the Zoline family, which ran a small cattle operation for some 50 years on about 124 acres along Old Stage Road, bordered by Maroon Creek on the east and, now, the Maroon Creek Club to the west and south.Approval for the development of the Bar/X was part of a joint plan that included Burlingame Ranch, the city worker housing project now under construction on adjacent property. The heirs of family patriarch Joseph Zoline decided to sell the ranchland after the development approvals were in place, though daughter Pam Zoline and her husband, John Lifton, were among eight bidders for the property. The elder Zoline died in 2004.”We bid on it, unsuccessfully, with partners,” Lifton confirmed Thursday. The couple had previously expressed a desire to retain the ranch home and the cattle operation.”It was hard for both of us. She [Pam] has known it for 50 years, but I’ve known it for 30,” Lifton said.Hills’ group was among three entities that all offered essentially the same sum in the first go-round for the ranch and were given a chance to bid a second time. Then, the bidding went to a third round.”We sharpened our pencil and went at it again,” Hills said. “It was nerve-wracking and not the way you want to do a deal, but that’s the way it worked out.”That’s a very big bet to play without some kind of confirmation.”With an accepted offer and 30 days to withdraw without penalty, Two Stage Road LLC put word out on the lots through B.J. Adams & Co., though the lots were not formally listed for sale.Hills said he hoped prospective buyers would reserve roughly half the lots quickly, giving the Two Stage Road investors an indication of whether the $48.5 million risk was worth taking.All of the lots were reserved within two weeks, and a waiting list followed.”The phone was ringing off the hook,” Hills said.A few lots will become available again before the sales are final, he predicted. Contracts have gone out to those who have reserved parcels; they are due back in a week with a 10 percent deposit.The lots are priced at $4 million to $13 million; the priciest parcel is 35 acres and includes the existing ranch compound. The buyer has the ability to build a new house of up to 18,000 square feet above ground, plus a basement, along with 40,000 square feet of agricultural buildings, according to Hills.”It’s 35 acres within the city limits, served by city sewer and water. You have your own ranch within the city of Aspen,” he said. “It’s a pretty special piece of land.”Hills said he has initiated the process of designating the old ranch house on the lot as historic under the city’s regulations so that it will be preserved.The other 12 lots can have homes of up to 10,000 square feet above grade, plus basements. Buyers can also build a small accessory dwelling and devote some of the allowable square footage to a horse barn, if they wish.The ranch also comes with the right to build a 1,500-square-foot cabin along a secluded stretch of Maroon Creek.Two Stage Road LLC will retain ownership of the cabin site for the time being, but it does not intend to build the cabin, Hills said.”Our opinion is, it’s a very sensitive area,” he said. “Just because you have the right to build doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it.”The Bar/X developers will begin infrastructure work this summer. Hills said he does not expect lot buyers to begin work on their homes until next summer.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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