Final component of Tree Farm project taking shape in El Jebel |

Final component of Tree Farm project taking shape in El Jebel

Residences, restaurants and retail planned on west end of ski lake

This architect’s rendering shows how the Lakeside development at the Tree Farm will appear in a view from Kodiak ski lake.
Courtesy image

The land for the fourth and final major component of the Tree Farm project in the El Jebel area is under contract for sale to a Scottsdale real estate developer and his family.

Walt Brown Jr., founder and CEO of Diversified Partners, said the Tree Farm offers an extraordinary opportunity in an “amazing setting” where a high-quality development is taking shape.

“We’ve got a year-and-a-half under our belt of working on this already, and we’re excited to start construction in the second quarter of next year,” Brown said. “That’s what we’re envisioning.”

Brown Family Holdings is under contract to buy several lots on the west or downvalley side of the water-ski lake at the Tree Farm project. The site is located across Highway 82 from Whole Foods and Willits Town Center.

Brown is calling his portion of the project the Lakeside neighborhood because the prime restaurant, retail and residential space will overlook the lake.

Three lots closest to the lake, the “A lots,” will have 14 condominiums and 13,556 square feet of commercial space. Brown is particularly excited by the prospect of locating restaurants there. He is trying to woo Aspen restaurateurs Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce to open a business there, but there is no commitment at this point.

We really want to make this a place that people are proud of.” — Walt Brown Jr.

He envisions the A lots including a grand plaza where activities such as art walks and farmers’ markets can be held. He wants the place to attract residents from all over the Roaring Fork Valley and not just the neighborhood.

“We really want to make this a place that people are proud of,” Brown said. “It’s not about just filling spaces. It’s about doing it right.”

The “B lots,” located west of the A lots, will have 36 rental condos in roughly 38,000 square feet of space.

The “C lot” on the northwest corner of the intersection of Highway 82 and Willits Lane will have about 3,000 square feet of commercial space on the lower floor and 10 deed-restricted, affordable housing sale units on the upper floor. The plans are still taking shape, so adjustments could be made.

“We think we can accommodate up to four restaurants,” Brown said.

Landowner Ace Lane acquired approvals from the Eagle County commissioners by a 2-1 vote in June 2017 after a hard-fought land use battle. The project is approved for nearly 135,000 square feet of commercial space and 340 homes. Lane successfully marketed the project to national development firms.

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.

Sandwiched between the hotel and the Tree Farm Lofts will be an independent living facility.

Brown said he and his wife, Ruth, and their two sons have been visiting Aspen for about 10 years. He was interested in a development project, so he talked to local real estate agents about possibilities.

“What I said to them is I’d love to do a project that is entitled, zoned and in place and could be accomplished sooner than later, and they brought (the Tree Farm component) to me,” Brown said.

From there, he approached Lane and David Marrs, a member of Lane’s team.

“We really feel like it was an interview process with the seller, with Ace and Dave Marrs,” Brown said. “They literally wanted to make sure that, one, we have the vision; two, that we would perform; and, three, that we’re here for the right intentions.”

Brown and his family will pursue the development separate from Brown’s Scottsdale company. He and his wife have worked with Lane’s architectural review committee to make sure the design and materials fit with Lane’s vision. It is important that the design “is an asset to the community rather than an eyesore,” Brown said.

Another component important to Brown is getting the right retail mix in the project. He will have the flexibility to lease or sell space, or allow a tenant to lease and transfer into a purchase after getting established. The retail spaces will be small. Brown said he is partial to local shops rather than national chains.

Assuming the closing proceeds as planned, construction will commence in spring.

“We’re going full speed the second quarter of 2022,” Brown said. “We’re going full speed on the A lots and the B lots. The C lot will be 90 days behind it. We’ve been trying to get C motivated, but it just hasn’t clicked yet.”

Construction will take 20 months.

“At the end of construction and everything it’s a $60 million investment,” Brown said.

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