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Do Base Village numbers add up?

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Will annual retail sales in Snowmass Village shops and restaurants rise from today’s $36 million to $88 million by 2012 if the Base Village and Snowmass Center projects are built?

If the town adds 100,000 square feet of retail space, most of it in Base Village, will sales per square foot go up from $312 to $350 or even $400?

A bevy of consultants say … yes, probably, but it would help if the retail mix in Base Village is “cast” correctly, if there are twice as many condos in town, if more visitors come more often, and if fewer of them go into Aspen once they get to Snowmass Village.

Four of the five Snowmass Village Town Council members, Dick Virtue, T. Michael Manchester, Arnold Mordkin and Bill Boineau, sorted through the questions and projections on Monday.

They did so knowing that the final Base Village proposal, the one they have been expecting for two years now, is going before the town’s planning commission this week and will soon be in front of them.

And so the councilmen heard from a consultant they had hired to check the analysis of a consultant hired by Intrawest, which wants to build the village in partnership with the Aspen Skiing Co.

The town’s consultant, Dan Guimond of Economic and Planning Systems, analyzed the work of the Development Consulting Group. The group developed a model to show how different types of visitors might react to Base Village, with its 635 condos, its new gondola, and its ski-in, ski-out setting.

The rosiest analysis from Guimond shows Snowmass retail sales rising from $35 million to $88 million, but a list of things have to go right.

For starters, more people have to sleep in Snowmass.

Occupancy rates need to rise from 35 percent to 42 percent (and do so in a bed base that is growing from 1,700 beds to 3,400 beds). And the number of annual overnight visitors needs to rise from 500,000 to 815,000.

Then, the people who do sleep in Snowmass need to wake up and spend less money in Aspen.

Today, Snowmass only captures 38 percent of its overnight guests’ spending. With a new village, can Snowmass capture 70 percent of its guests’ spending? Can it reach that $88 million mark?

Only if it builds a competitive retail environment, say the analysts, which means that instead of the 115,000 square feet of occupied retail space the resort has today, it needs 222,000 square feet of occupied (not just built) retail space.

And then, retail sales per square foot need to go from today’s $312 to $400 per square foot.

That’s the $88 million scenario.

The least rosy projection discussed Monday by the council shows retail sales climbing to $67 million a year from the current $35 million.

That still takes 815,000 visitor nights and a 42 percent occupancy rate.

But it only takes a 50 percent “retail capture rate,” 192,000 square feet of retail space and $350 in sales per retail-square-foot.

And perhaps a leap of faith.

The town’s consultant pointed to Beaver Creek.

Over the last decade, that resort’s annual retail sales have climbed along with its skier visits, while Snowmass has lost skier visits and seen its retail sales stall.

That prompted former Snowmass Village Mayor Jeff Tippett to observe that “Beaver Creek was dead in the water for a long time. Nobody wanted to say there …

” … until they had more commercial,” said Boineau.

” … and the bed base to support it,” said Manchester.

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]


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