Hotel boom hasn’t offset pillow drain | AspenTimes.com

Hotel boom hasn’t offset pillow drain

Janet Urquhart

There are at least 10 hotel projects in some stage of construction, review or contemplation in Aspen these days, but the resort is nowhere near replacing all the tourist accommodations it has lost over the past decade.The city’s Community Development Department recently completed an inventory of Aspen lodging in an effort to come up with an accurate tally of pillows – actual spots for guests to sleep.The current hotel boom includes new accommodations and projects that replace lodging that has been demolished. The Grand Aspen Hyatt, nearing completion off Dean Street, falls into the latter category, replacing the old Grand Aspen Hotel, which was razed to make way for the new timeshare hotel.The Residences at Little Nell, now under construction on the lower slopes of Aspen Mountain, and the proposed Lodge at Aspen Mountain on South Aspen Street, which is still under City Council review, are new hotels.All of the projects in the “pipeline” – either under construction or approved and considered likely to be built – would add 584 pillows to Aspen’s total, according to the city tally. The estimate assumes two pillows per bedroom.However, between 1994-95 and today, Aspen’s “pillow count” dropped from nearly 10,000 pillows to about 7,300. During that same period, the number of lodging properties declined from 73 to 48, according to the city.Whether the resort needs to regain all of the lodging pillows that have been lost is debatable, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a local reservations agency.”There are a lot of different perspectives on the question … how much do we really need,” he said. “Yeah, we’ve lost a lot of accommodations – we’ve also lost a lot of the airline seats we had during that peak.”Still, Tomcich considers the rooms Aspen is regaining to be a good thing.”There are a lot of times of the year when the number of tourists in town is capped by the number of hotel beds,” he said.Not only has Aspen lost lodging, but the makeup of the accommodations has changed dramatically, notes Jennifer Phelan, long-range planner for the Community Development Department.”The complexion of lodging has changed,” Phelan said. “What we seem to be losing is a fair amount of economy lodging. What we’re getting is a fair amount of deluxe lodging.”As a percentage of total pillows, economy lodging has dropped from 20 percent to 6 percent since 1991, while deluxe hotel pillows have increased from 11 percent to 22 percent of the market.Among projects now under construction, the Hyatt Grand Aspen will bring an estimated 260 pillows into the mix, while the Residences at Little Nell will add 170. The renovation of the Innsbruck Inn, a Main Street lodge that is being converted into a fractional-ownership project, will see an estimated net gain of eight pillows, according to the city’s calculations. The Innsbruck is categorized as moderately priced lodging, while the Hyatt and Residences are counted as deluxe accommodations.In the approved-but-unbuilt category is an addition to the Hotel Aspen (a gain of 16 pillows), the Dancing Bear (54 pillows), the ChartHouse Lodge (68 pillows), and the second phase of the Christiana redevelopment (24 pillows).In the application process, in addition to the 584 pillows that the city considers likely, are the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, redevelopment of the Limelite Lodge, proposed new fractional units at the Aspen Club and Spa, and the redevelopment of the Sky Hotel. Those projects could add another 400 or so pillows to the mix.On the other hand, a plan to build an Aspen Jewish Community Center on the property currently operating as the L’Auberge D’Aspen lodge would take away 40 pillows.Still in the offing are anticipated plans to redevelop the Skiers Chalet and Holland House.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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