Gorsuch Haus moves closer to reality with $10 million land buy from Aspen Skiing Co. | AspenTimes.com

Gorsuch Haus moves closer to reality with $10 million land buy from Aspen Skiing Co.

Spokesman says groundbreaking of luxury hotel is still months away

A look at the Lift 1A area at the base of Aspen Mountain on Monday afternoon. The bottom terminal and surrounding buildings were included in the sale to Norway Island LLC for $10 million. (David Krause / The Aspen Times)

The partners in the proposed Gorsuch Haus purchased about 2 acres of land at the base of Aspen Mountain last week, but don’t expect groundbreaking on the hotel any time soon, according to a spokesman for the group.

Norway Island LLC purchased the land for $10 million from Aspen Skiing Co., according to a special warranty deed filed with the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder. The property sale included the existing lower terminal for Lift 1A and the surrounding buildings as well as vacant land farther up the slope.

Jim DeFrancia, president of Lowe Enterprises, which is a partner in the hotel, said Norway Island LLC has worked since November to acquire final approvals from the city of Aspen and negotiate all details and conditions of the sale with Skico.

“That allowed us to officially acquire the property for the hotel,” he said Monday. “That really makes it final.”

Well, almost, he said. The owners of the adjacent proposed project, Lift One Lodge, are working to submit all the details required by the city of Aspen. Gorsuch Haus, Lift One Lodge and Skico’s replacement of Lift 1A are all tied together in a corridor project. Gorsuch Haus cannot proceed until Lift One Lodge clears all hurdles, DeFrancia said. It’s realistic to think construction will start in spring 2023, he said.

The purchase of 2 acres for $10 million is a milestone in a complicated project and has taken a long time to unfold. The Aspen City Council granted conditional approval to the luxury hotel in January 2019, subject to a referendum. The 81-room Gorsuch Haus squeaked by in the election by 26 votes — 1,555 in favor to 1,529 against.

Norway Island LLC had one year from March 2019 to file all documents required in the council and referendum approval, DeFrancia said. That included more detailed architectural plans, easements and technical information. Norway Island met the deadline. The city staff reviewed the materials, and then the proposal went to the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission for a final technical review in November.

The P&Z final approvals were granted in December, with vesting of rights for five years. Once that step was achieved, Skico subdivided the property to allow the sale of the two acres to Norway Island LLC. The sale price changed only a small amount because the lengthy process required Norway Island to extend its options to purchase the land from Skico, DeFrancia said.

“We were all high-fiving and drinking champagne on Friday when this was recorded,” he said.

Lowe Enterprises and Jeff Gorsuch, another of the principals in the project, funded the land purchased “largely with our own capital” and some investors’ funds, DeFrancia said.

The next step for the group will be preparing and submitting detail constructed drawings to the city. That will occur after Lift One Lodge completes all its technical review requirements for the city.

“They’re doing the exact same thing,” DeFrancia said. “They’re just running about six months behind us.”

The current estimated construction cost for the Gorsuch Haus is between $80 million and $100 million, according to DeFrancia.

“It’s damn expensive,” he said, noting it will be of the highest caliber construction. “This is not going to be your grandfather’s Buick, as they say.”

An agreement filed simultaneously with the deed spells out that Skico has rights to use Lift 1A, the ticket office and various other facilities that were included in the sale to Gorsuch Haus. Skico also pledged in the agreement to replace Lift 1A, which has local and federal approvals in hand. The new lift’s lower terminal will be extended down the slope to Dean Street.

When asked when the lift will be constructed, a Skico spokeperson’s answer by email said, “Still very much up in the air. That will depend on construction timeline of each of the Lift One Lodge and Gorsuch Haus as well as the construction coordination plan that is ultimately set up. With that said, both projects have a five-year vesting timeline that has already commenced.”