Crowns decline request to finance Snowmass condo project |

Crowns decline request to finance Snowmass condo project

SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” The owners of the Aspen Skiing Co. are eager to see the Little Nell Residences at Snowmass completed, but not eager enough to bail out the stalled project, according to a Skico spokesman.

The Crown family, owners of the Skico, fielded a request by developer Related WestPac to finance the construction or arrange for financing for the Snowmass project, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said. The Crowns declined the request simply because Skico isn’t in the business of funding construction projects, he said.

Related WestPac CEO Dwayne Romero said the Crowns were “very supportive” of the firm and understanding of the financial difficulties it is facing. The Crowns agreed to provide “a piece” of the financing, contingent on Related WestPac securing the larger piece. That didn’t happen.

Related WestPac officially suspended work on the Little Nell Residences at Snowmass on March 31, though construction stalled months earlier. Romero notified Snowmass Village government officials in December that financing had fallen through.

The Little Nell Residences at Snowmass are part of the Base Village development at the foot of Snowmass Ski Area. The Crowns and Aspen Skiing Co. have more than a passing interest in the luxury condominium project. The Skico owns and operates the acclaimed Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, and the luxury condos will be under the Little Nell brand. The Skico also will manage the 27 units.

A project with the Little Nell name also has stalled in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The Residences at The Little Nell was completed at the base of Aspen Mountain this winter after delays and disputes with some buyers. Both of those projects were pursued by independent developers with management contracts with the Skico’s Little Nell.

Hanle said the Skico doesn’t believe Related WestPac’s financial difficulties reflect poorly on the Little Nell project or Snowmass. It is just a product of the credit crisis that is part of the broader recession. “This is all over the world,” he said.

Romero has said Related WestPac will try to secure financing to complete Base Village as soon as possible. The original timetable called for it to be completed by 2011. Related WestPac purchased Base Village from the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest Corp. in 2007.

Base Village was approved for 1 million square feet of residential and commercial space, including 600 luxury residential units. Romero estimated that 30 to 35 percent of the project is complete. The number is deceiving on the low side, he said, because the infrastructure and sub-structure of the village have been completed ” two major components that make the rest of the project’s completion easier.

Related WestPac has completed several buildings at Base Village, including the Skico’s new kids center, called the Treehouse, as well as residences, restaurants and shops. There were signs of life ” or the “vitality” that resort operators covet ” this season. Base Village’s finest hour may have been during a Sam Bush concert last month that attracted hundreds of partiers. However, the completion of Base Village appears years away, which stalls the Skico’s goal of Snowmass competing with Vail, Deer Valley and Blackcomb/Whistler as one of the top ski resorts in North America.

“We were really happy to see how it all came together this year,” Hanle said. “We’d love to see Base Village finished as quickly as possible.”

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