Highlands Village changing hands?
ASPEN The commercial and retail portion of the Aspen Highlands Village is either under contract to be sold or about to be, according to sources close to the deal.No information was available Aug. 3 about who the buyer might be, or what the price might be.And the Hines Interests company, the corporate identity of mega-developer Gerald Hines, is officially keeping mum about the possibility of a sale.But one official at the company, comptroller Donna Grauer, confirmed that “we are discussing it with someone” although she also said, “We haven’t sold it.”Grauer said Hines has 23,000 square feet of commercial and retail space at the base of the Aspen Highland Ski Area, a mixed-use complex developed by Hines after he acquired the ski area from founder Whip Jones at the start of the 1993-94 season. Hines immediately arranged a merger with the Skico, and then went on to demolish the aging and funky base village and develop a modern mix of timeshares, luxury homes and affordable housing along with commercial uses.When asked who the potential buyer is, however, Grauer clammed up and told a reporter, “I don’t know how much I should be saying to you.” She referred further questions to the manager of Hines Interests, Bob Daniel, who did not return calls.One of the tenants of the complex, filmmaker and businessman John Wilcox, confirmed that the sale was in the works.Wilcox, who is the owner of the Ashcroft Ski Touring Center and the Pine Creek Cookhouse at the upper end of the Castle Creek Valley, and has an office at Highlands Village, said he and a group of partners tried to buy the Highlands Village commercial space about a year ago but were rebuffed.The purchase attempt was made by Wilcox and four others he did not name, he said, after Hines tried unsuccessfully to get government permission to convert some commercial space into townhomes.When the proposed zoning change was denied, Wilcox recalled, “We said, ‘We’re interested.’ But Hines said they wanted to see what the Skico wanted.”He said he was talking at one point with valley Realtor Andrea Regan, whom Wilcox said was both his leasing agent with Hines and is a real estate broker with the Chaffin Light Associates real estate firm.When he heard recently that there was an offer on the table, Wilcox continued, he asked Grauer if he could make an offer as well, but never heard back.”It’s my understanding that they have a signed contract with a party unknown to us,” Wilcox said on Friday. “We had an investor that was going to put up all the money. Our feeling was, it wasn’t good faith [on Hines’ behalf]. We’re disappointed we’ve been treated this way.”John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.com