Buy out the mall
July 9, 2002
On Friday, June 28, the Snowmass Village Town Council held its second Commercial Core meeting with most of the commercial stakeholders represented.
This meeting was billed as not another “tiptoe through the tulips” (a reference to the first meeting on May 9, which did not answer any of the critical issues facing this development). The Town Council asked many hard questions and some very positive and essential data was presented concerning the critical mass of commercial development needed to support a revitalized and vibrant Snowmass Village.
Suffice it to say, some early notions were put to rest, e.g. that a substantial allocation of retail space in the mall was absolutely critical to the success of the new Base Village. It now appears that there is sufficient commercial space available in the Base Village plan to support the entire Base Village development without looking to retail support from the mall.
In short, what this means is that Base Village can proceed with or without the mall’s involvement. Having said that, however, is not to say that is our first or best choice. However, it does put this issue in perspective for the mall owners/landlords.
Since the first Commercial Core meeting, the mall owners/landlords have not moved forward with any redevelopment plans or discussions (at least none that they would acknowledge). They raise convenient and dubious excuses for their total lack of momentum on these critical issues, e.g. the Sherman Anti-Trust Act prohibits them from talking to each other regarding an overall redevelopment plan for the mall and its retail tenants.
Does anyone really believe these guys don’t talk to each other on a regular basis? They appear to be waiting for the Town Council, Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co. to come begging at their door. Well, it now appears their involvement is not essential to the forward momentum of Base Village.
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Since their wait-and-see tactic does not carry the same leverage that they thought they had, perhaps they ought to revise their strategy and get on board this fast moving train so they don’t get left at the station without a ticket or baggage.
If they don’t board this train soon, they will be left behind to struggle with an outdated mall which will eventually crumble under the weight of competition from the new Base Village and all its new amenities and services.
The mall owners/landlords dismissed out-of-hand a suggestion many of us have made regarding the conversion of the mall into more residential units and expanded conference facilities from which they would generate far more revenue than they now generate as retail landlords.
One can only assume, irrespective of their public pronouncements to the contrary, that they do not have the ability or desire to put any more capital into the mall, whether for residential or retail development.
If this is the case, it may be the right time for the Skico and Intrawest to buy out the mall owners at a reasonable price so that this valuable piece of land can now be integrated into the new Base Village development plan.
I’m sure the Skico and Intrawest think they will make a better economic deal when the mall goes into bankruptcy, but further pain and anxiety for the retail tenants will continue and valuable time will have been lost waiting for this event to occur, and the benefits to the community will be further delayed awaiting the insolvency of the mall.
A buyout now would benefit the town, retail merchants, property owners, guests, the Skico and Intrawest by allowing a single development group with a unified vision to create and build a vibrant and integrated village, thereby spreading the scale, mass, height and density over a much larger area, thus reducing the negative impact on the surrounding properties and ensuring the success of the entire project.
History and their current lack of any positive action have shown that the mall owners/landlords have neither the desire nor the resources to do what is necessary to improve the mall.
This project is too important to the current and future economic viability of Snowmass Village to allow the mall owners/landlords to stand in the way of or delay this critically essential Base Village project. Without it, Snowmass Village could very well become a ghost town in the foreseeable future.
Mel D. Blumenthal
Enclave Homeowners Association