Developer says it is full speed ahead at midvalley Tree Farm project
Walt Brown Jr. hopes to use concerns about a recession to his advantage
A Scottsdale developer with a major stake in the Tree Farm development in El Jebel remains bullish on the project despite the bearish stock market and hints of a recession.
Walt Brown Jr. said his team is ready to roll on a mixed residential and commercial project on the west end of Kodiak Lake across Highway 82 from Whole Foods. He anticipates acquiring building permits from Eagle County and breaking ground next month.
Brown is founder and CEO of Diversified Partners of Scottsdale, but he and his family are pursuing the Tree Farm project independently. In a tour of the site Monday, Brown and his wife, Ruth, said the speculation about a recession could actually aid their effort.
“The good news is the fear of the recession has had some projects that have pulled the plug,” Walt Brown said. “It seems to me, especially in the last 10 or 15 days, that there are more options on product, more options on construction companies and subs working on project.
“People have been timid and people have put their projects on hold, and I think that has actually helped us,” Brown continued.
Brown’s family has acquired roughly one-quarter of the land in the Tree Farm project. Landowner Ace Lane acquired approvals from Eagle County in 2017 for nearly 135,000 square feet of commercial space and up to 340 residences.
Two Dallas-based real estate development firms are building 156 free-market apartments and 40 apartments with rent caps on the east end of the lake. The project by Realty Capital Residential and Lang Partners is known as the Tree Farm Lofts.
Another Dallas-based development firm, Bedford Lodging, is building the 122-room Hoffmann Hotel near the Willits Lane-Highway 82 intersection.
Both of those projects broke ground this spring.
The fourth major component is an independent living project that hasn’t broken ground.
The property Brown acquired has approvals for about 70 residences and 54,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and office space. Eagle County’s approvals provide some flexibility so the makeup could change. Brown is obligated to build 10 rent-capped units. Some of the other residences are designated as resident occupied, meaning they must be offered initially to full-time residents of the Roaring Fork Valley. After 60 days, they can be offered on the free market.
The Browns believe their development will be in high demand because of location, location, location. A major part of it will look over Kodiak Lake with views to the east, toward Aspen. That will be the Lakeside neighborhood. It will include a public plaza that will be a natural fit for a farmers’ market, art walks and music performances, Brown said. Public trails and amenities such as fire pits and water features will be ingrained in the plaza.
Once the project breaks ground, it will take 24 to 26 months to complete. Brown said the most recent estimate put the cost at $65 million to $80 million.
“We will know that number for sure in about a month,” he said. “We’ve tried to keep our finger on the pulse. It hasn’t been easy.”
He remains bullish while other developers have pulled back.
“Interest rates have gone up a little bit. Some people have said, ‘OK, let’s just sit tight a little bit,’” Brown said. “The companies that are working their butts off to get a project going, many of them have slowed down and said ‘let’s figure out what’s going on.’”
He is willing to proceed because he believes the Roaring Fork Valley is resilient and demand will exist even if the economy slows.
“We’re here for the long haul,” Brown said. We think there is no better, secure place to do business than the Roaring Fork Valley.”