Hotel Jerome: has history, or is history? |

Hotel Jerome: has history, or is history?

It’s been a whirlwind week for the Hotel Jerome, from Monday’s announcement that the Oklahoma Publishing Co. is selling the property to Thursday’s revelation that the buyers specialize in hotel-condos.The dust has yet to settle. Chicago-based Elysian Worldwide LLC, led by David Pisor, plans to buy the 92-bedroom landmark within 60 days. For now, however, nobody is talking. Not the sellers, not the buyers, not the broker. We are only left to guess what Pisor and Elysian have planned for the historic Jerome, but the pending owners have a track record that deserves a close look.Pisor and Elysian say their mission is to grow a condo-hotel empire by tapping destination resort markets and gateway cities. Construction on their flagship property is underway in Chicago, where their 60-story building will feature 51 condos and 188 hotel-condos. Prices start at $480,000 and climb into the millions.It’s a concept they are confident will work in Chicago – indeed, 70 percent of the rooms were pre-sold through last year. Now Pisor and company stand to make a bundle in Aspen on the very property they are said to be purchasing for $50 million-plus. It makes no sense for them to spend that kind of money on a simple hotel. Condos offer a much larger and quicker return, by converting wealthy investors into part-time Aspenites.There’s a solid chance the Jerome – where miners, firemen and stars like John Wayne used to meet – could be turned into condominiums. (Let’s not forget that the condos would be rented out when the owners aren’t there – that is the model Pisor employs.) If that’s what happens, the charming era of the Hotel Jerome is over. Our town’s hotel bed inventory would shrink, and Aspen would become even more exclusive.Aspen thrives on its history, and it’s the citizenry’s responsibility to make sure we have a say over our town’s character. This doesn’t mean we’ve always been good at this – we end up squabbling over buildings of dubious significance, like the Hearthstone House, and plenty of our “historic” buildings aren’t exactly attractive.But this is the Hotel Jerome we’re talking about. It is sacred ground, a place we like to think is ours, no matter who holds the title.We hope the pending owners respect what the Hotel Jerome represents. There are plenty of other buildings they can convert into profit centers, but not the Hotel Jerome. We should all be extremely leery of this deal – unless we want to become another Vail.

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