Jerome buyers quiet on plans for hotel

Rick CarrollAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN A representative for the Chicago-based development firm that is buying the Hotel Jerome said it will be weeks before any plans for the downtown Aspen landmark become public. Elysian Worldwide LLC, headed by David Pisor, has the Hotel Jerome under contract to purchase from the Oklahoma Publishing Co. within 60 days. If Elysian stays true to its business mission, the 92-bedroom Hotel Jerome would become a condo-hotel, a concept in which the rooms are privately owned but rented out by management when the owners are gone. Elysian spokeswoman Alexis Kaplan said it is too early to assume that the new owners will convert the Hotel Jerome to that formula. “We’re weeks away from having anything finalized or signed to say what is going to happen,” Kaplan said Thursday. “But the Elysian plan has always been to grow the brand by developing hotels and properties in the gateway cities and destination resorts.”One former co-owner of the Hotel Jerome said it will be a “sad day for Aspen” if Pisor and Elysian convert the four-star lodge into condos. “It’s one of the most historical buildings in America,” said Dick Butera, who co-owned it from 1985-89. “It is the heart and soul of Aspen, and if you have 60 or 70 different owners going in and out, game over.”Published reports link Pisor and Donald Trump together as the leaders in the condo-hotel industry – Pisor’s 60-story Elysian Hotel and Private Residences in Chicago is set to open in 2008, and the 92-room Trump Tower also is under construction in the Windy City.The Elysian Hotel’s condo-hotel units start at $480,000, and the private residences begin at $2.6 million.The company holds itself out to be poised for growth, starting with the Chicago property. “The Elysian Hotel and Private Residences in Chicago will be the flagship property of Elysian Hotels & Resorts. Additional sites in the United States and Europe are currently under consideration,” said a company news release announcing the Chicago development. The condo-hotel concept can make money for both the developer and the condo buyer. That’s because the buyer can rent out the condo-hotel units. And as of late last year, Elysian had presold 70 percent of its condo-hotel units. Elysian received $203 million in financing for the project from New York-based Hypo Real Estate Bank International.Meanwhile, Kaplan said the Hotel Jerome would be an ideal property for Elysian Worldwide.”I think the combination of the 118-year-old Hotel Jerome’s historic, landmark status with the special town of Aspen makes in an excellent fit with what the Elysian brand stands for,” she said. “But again, [the purchase] is scheduled to happen within 60 days, but there are no guarantees. It’s just too early to talk about anything.”Sources say the Hotel Jerome is under contract to sell for more than $50 million. Oklahoma Publishing bought the 113,282-square-foot lodge for $33.7 million in June 2005 from Jim McManus. The pending deal was hatched Friday and announced to the staff Monday. The announcement came two weeks before the hotel was set to close in April for a massive restoration project, expected to last eight months. Instead, the hotel will close from April 2 until May 25.Those involved in the deal, including the sellers, say they are beholden to confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from talking about the transaction. Apparently the sellers had grown tired of the city of Aspen’s approval process, which began shortly after they bought the hotel. In December the Aspen City Council approved a renovation plan, scaled down from the original proposal.The hotel staffs 175 workers. Rick Carroll can be reached at