Cool welcome for timeshare plan in Aspen
The modern version of timeshare projects officially arrived in town last night and was greeted with skepticism by the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission.Representatives of the ownership group controlling the Grand Aspen hotel presented a rosy scenario, showing that vacation ownership projects have higher occupancy rates and produce more sales tax revenue than traditional hotels.But the presentation met with persistent questioning by the members of the recommending board, which put off changing the conceptual approval of the Grand Aspen project until at least April 3.Savanah Limited Partnership, the prior owners of the Grand Aspen, received conceptual approval last year from the Aspen City Council for a 150-room, “moderately priced, upscale hotel.”Last month, Savanah sold the hotel in a deal worth $30 million to a group of local and national investors, including Colony Capital, one of the largest real estate investment trusts in the country. The deal also included 13 ski-in, ski-out homesites at the base of Aspen Mountain and an employee housing site at the Bavarian Inn.The new ownership group, Four Peaks Management, is now seeking to amend the conceptual approval granted to Savannah.The biggest changes would be inside the 115,000-square-foot building. Instead of a 150-room hotel, the group is seeking approval for a 50-suite fractional ownership project to be run by the Hyatt Vacation Club, which would operate it much like a hotel. The proposed two-, three-, and four-bedroom suites would be configured so that the second and third bedrooms could be “locked-off” and rented out as separate hotel rooms.Last night, the new owners of the currently dark hotel site made their pitch to the P&Z. On the mound were two resort timeshare consultants, Richard Ragatz of RCI Consulting, Inc. and Steve Ferrarini of Hobson Ferrarini Associates.Ragatz said the year-round occupancy rate at a fractional ownership project at the Grand Aspen would be about 87 percent. That’s in contrast to the 56.8 percent year-round occupancy rate in the Aspen hotel industry. He also reported that the annual sales tax generated from a vacation ownership project at the site would be $457,040, compared to $319,091 if it i was a hotel.For his part, Ferrarini said he had independently arrived at similar numbers and also noted that owners in fractional projects tended to come to a resort more often, stay longer and have a more “satisfying vacation.”But at the end of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, the P&Z members wanted more information on how the consultants arrived at their figures, how the seasons of Aspen were factored into the equations and what the prices would be for both ownership intervals and for nightly rates.Several neighbors of the Grand Aspen suggested that since the project was changing from a hotel to a fractional project, the fourth floor of the building, which is above Aspen’s normal height limit, could be eliminated. Savanah had said the height variance was necessary to make the economics of a moderately priced hotel work.”We’re talking about a much different project,” said David Booth, who represents 11 condo associations in the area. “The height is still a major issue.”Jerry Monkarsh, a developer from California who is on the board of the Galena Place homeowners association, estimated that the developers would gross $147 million on the vacation ownership project and so they could afford to lose the fourth floor.”It can be lopped off,” Monkarsh said.Return to The Aspen Times or AspenAlive.com
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