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Grand Aspen might finally get going

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Developers of the Hyatt Grand Aspen may finally begin construction of the timeshare hotel late this summer or early in the fall, according to the project’s representatives.

The 51-unit hotel is slated for construction on the Dean Street site where the former Grand Aspen Hotel once stood, south of the Silver Circle Ice Rink. The site has been little more than a giant hole in the ground with a fence around it since the old hotel was torn down two years ago.

A lawsuit filed by neighbors shortly after the hotel won city approval in January 2001 delayed construction for a year, and a struggling national economy left developers hesitant to move the project forward after the legal spat was settled nearly a year ago.

In anticipation of moving ahead, developers have rebid the construction project and selected G.E. Johnson as the general contractor, though they held off on starting work last spring.

Four Peaks Developments is, however, constructing employee housing at the former Bavarian Inn site – a project that is linked to the Grand Aspen approval – and the first units should be finished next month, according to Scott Writer, a principal with Four Peaks.

And the sales office to market the timeshares recently opened on the corner of Mill Street and Hopkins Avenue.

Hyatt Vacation Club, pegged to operate the new hotel, has been wary of starting the project during a slumping national economy. The hotel operator wants to make sure what appears to be an economic rebound is for real, said David Parker, a partner in Four Peaks.

“It’s a team effort. Everyone has to be on board in order to proceed,” Writer said.

“We can’t make any assurances that it will be this year, but we’re reasonably confident the Hyatt folks are coming around to the local economy,” he said. “I think the confidence in the overall economy, not just the local economy, has picked up.

“It bodes well for this project.”

The project will be sold in one-20th shares, which means as many as 1,020 owners for the 51 units. With the ability to lock off rooms from suites and rent them separately, the project will offer as many as 130 rooms for guests.

When the project was approved, Writer predicted the average sale price of $150,000 for a share of the project would make the project an affordable option in the Aspen market with the potential to draw the middle class.

Once it’s under way, construction of the Hyatt Grand Aspen is expected to take about two years. Before the lawsuit and other factors led to delays, developers were predicting the hotel would open in the spring of 2004.

The first of 19 affordable housing units, also under development by Four Peaks, should be finished in August according to Writer.

Bavarian Affordable Housing LLC, managed by Four Peaks, is building a combination of new units and refurbished housing in the former Bavarian Inn at the top of Main Street. Four Peaks initially planned to remodel the old lodge, then decided to raze it and start from scratch, and is now back to its original plan to renovate the Bavarian.

“At the end of the day, we decided it made more sense not to tear it down,” Writer said.

The housing units will be finished in phases; all 19 units should be done sometime this fall, he said.

In all, nine three-bedroom units, four two-bedroom units, two one-bedroom units and four studios will be constructed. Sales prices will range between Categories 1-4 under the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority guidelines.

About half of the units will go to Four Peaks employees, though they must qualify for deed-restricted housing under the guidelines. The rest will be sold through the Housing Authority’s general lottery.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]


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