Historic Hotel Jerome under contract | AspenTimes.com

Historic Hotel Jerome under contract

Rick CarrollAspen, CO Colorado
With the Hotel Jerome as a backdrop, a time exposure captures the lights of cars and trucks streaking through the intersection of Mill and Main Tuesday night, Feb 15, 2005 as a light snow falls. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

ASPEN Citing frustration with the city’s red tape, a representative for the Hotel Jerome’s owners said Monday that the downtown landmark is under contract to sell in the next 30 to 60 days.The pending deal was hatched Friday and announced to the staff Monday morning. The announcement came two weeks before the hotel was set to close for a massive restoration project, expected to last eight months. Instead, the luxury hotel, which was built in 1889, will close from April 2 until May 25.Apparently the hotel’s owners, the Gaylord family of Oklahoma, had grown tired of the city’s approval process, which began shortly after they bought the hotel for $33.7 million in June 2005. In December, the Aspen City Council approved a renovation plan scaled down from the original proposal.”We really liked the Hotel Jerome people, and we like the Aspen community, but we do business in a very old-fashioned way,” said Steve Bartolin, the president and CEO of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, which the Gaylord family-controlled Oklahoma Publishing Co. owns. “And I think that’s why, perhaps, maybe it was not a good fit.”Bartolin, who was intricately involved in the Hotel Jerome renovation, was in Aspen Monday to deliver the news to the staff. The identity of the buyer was not disclosed.”The buyers asked that they introduce themselves to the community and the employees in a proper fashion, rather than a haphazard way, and I have to respect that,” he said after the meeting. While the potential new owner remains anonymous for the time being, Joshua Saslove of Aspen confirmed that he is sole real estate broker in the deal.

Saslove, who is known for his involvement in many of the area’s blockbuster deals, said: “I’m hard-pressed to discuss anything in any transaction, and until there is a closing, there is no sale. As soon as there is something to talk about, I will talk.”Also unclear is whether the new owner will move forward with the approved renovation.”The new owner wants to look at the plans and take it from there,” general manager Tony DiLucia said. “It will take some time.”The city’s approval of the remodeling came after the owners withdrew plans for a fourth-floor addition, and included the condition that any changes to the lodge’s historic elements get the blessing of the city’s historic preservation officer. Opponents of the renovation also expressed concern that the owners would renege on their promise to protect the 92-room hotel’s Victorian charm, and convert it to fractional ownership. The owners insisted they wouldn’t. The cost of the remodeling was estimated to be $45 million to $50 million.”We’re not tricky,” Bartolin said. “And I think the people in city government had perhaps got a little jaded. But in the end we got through the process. We did get beat up a little, and there were some parts we thought were fair, and some parts we didn’t think were fair, but we did get through that, and the rules can sometimes change in the process and that was a concern as well.”Bartolin said the 113,282-square-foot building was not listed for sale, but the owners had fielded inquires from several potential suitors for the past month. “We never really considered selling it until about a month ago,” Bartolin said. “We were involved in this for a year and a half, and since we purchased it, we really worked hard and had some great plans for the property. A lot of things started to come together simultaneously. We began getting calls from a number of different entities and businesses, so there certainly was a level of interest.”

Dick Butera, who co-owned the Hotel Jerome from 1985-89, said the owners decided to sell because “they were so beat up by the city they couldn’t take it anymore.”Butera attended various public meetings regarding the proposed renovation, and spoke fondly of the Gaylord family. He said Monday that the outgoing owners would have been an asset to the community. “I don’t know anyone else in the United States that were going to do what they would do for Aspen,” he said. “I know what these people would have represented. They would have brought a nonsmokestack benefit to the community, like [Prince] Bandar did.”Butera said the city was “abusive” toward the Gaylord family, but in a “very subtle” manner.”They basically said, ‘We don’t trust you,'” Butera said.But Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards, who was on City Council when it approved the renovations, said council members treated the owners with the same respect they extend to other applicants. “It really only went to two or three hearings, and the big issue was whether there would be a fourth floor for free-market,” she said. “No one tried to get into a role of what colors there would be.”

Meanwhile, DiLucia said most of the staff of 175 workers was disappointed upon hearing the news.”The reaction so far has been very sad because we really, really loved the ownership,” he said. “The staff and myself have been treated with such kindness.”Likewise, Katherine Huske, the hotel’s sales and marketing director, said most workers were somber about the announcement. “[The staff’s reaction] was quiet and pensive, and we had a lot of questions that at this point can’t be answered because of the confidentiality,” she said. One group happy with the announcement, however was the housekeeping crew, Huske said. “They were elated because they’ll have jobs this summer,” she said. Staff writer Joel Stonington contributed to this report. Rick Carroll can be reached at rcarroll@aspentimes.com.