In Aspen, recession-plagued projects coming back to life

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
The second phase at the Dancing Bear Private Residence Club is expected to be completed in summer 2015.
Aubree Dallas/The Aspen Times |

A big, steel skeleton of a building has sat at the corner of Durant Avenue and Monarch Street since 2010. It’s the second phase of the Dancing Bear Aspen, a project that stalled during the Great Recession.

With construction anticipated to resume in July, Councilman Adam Frisch is hoping the Dancing Bear will produce “a wave to raise all boats.” He and the Aspen City Council also expect to review a redevelopment application submitted by the Boomerang Lodge, another casualty of the recession, which has sat dormant since 2007. Frisch also hopes it will spur activity at nearby Lift 1A, where a townhome-development project was approved in November but has yet to break ground.

“I think it’s a great testament to Aspen as a community and the economy overall that the project in the developer’s eyes is economically viable again,” Frisch said. “I think it would be a huge upside for economic activity, and probably just as important physically walking around to have the building complete.”

Aspen development firm Sunrise Co. bought the Dancing Bear in 2012 through a joint partnership with Los Angeles financier Oaktree Capital Management. The seller, German bank West LB, foreclosed on the property in July 2012.

Phase I, known as “Parkside,” was completed in 2009 and features 72 one-eighth shares across nine units. All but one unit, which is being used for modeling purposes, have sold in the price range of $625,000 to $760,000. Phase II, or “Mountainside,” located at the former site of the Chart House restaurant, is expected to bring 88 fractional interests online across 11 units. Though none of these private residences will be available to Aspen’s short-term rental pool, Mayor Steve Skadron said build-out of the skeletal eyesore can only add vibrancy to Aspen.

“If it brings traffic to town and introduces us to people who hadn’t come here previously, or perhaps it reignites an interest in our community from those who haven’t been here in a while, I consider this a success,” he said.

Frisch agreed, “My belief is that it’s best to have as many residential units in town and having people in them, whether it’s the same person all year or whether it’s 52 different families a week a year. More lights on, less darkness is good.”

Dancing Bear Sales Director Keith Marlow said the fractional-ownership structure leads to more lights on than single-ownership units.

“It certainly caters itself to owners who have got an affinity for Aspen and want to be here frequently in any given season of the year,” he said, noting that some owners control two fractions.

Building approvals remain in place for the second phase through 2014. However, there are minor tweaks that still need to be approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the council in June.

According to real estate statistics, there were 347 residential real estate transactions in Aspen in 2013, 109 of which were fractional-ownership purchases.