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Local homes way above average size

Joel Stonington
Aspen Times Weekly
Saudi Prince Bandar's estate near Aspen is Pitkin County's largest residence at some 52,000 square feet. (Mark Fox/Aspen Times Weekly file)
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What do the founder of the AIM Management Group, a New York trial attorney, the CEO of the Limited brands and local Boogie Weinglass have in common?

Each one of them owns one of the top-10 largest homes in the Aspen area.

But the term “house” hardly describe these trophy estates, complete with indoor gyms, swimming pools and sometimes hundreds of acres of land.



It wasn’t always this way, said County Commissioner Dorothea Farris, who remembers a time before the roaring 1980s when Aspen was not the land of castles. Starting with the building of Hala Ranch ” Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s 52,897-square-foot palace that tops the list ” Aspen changed.

“I don’t think it has helped us any,” Farris said. “The structure itself uses resources that I don’t think we should be using. Socially I think it’s difficult because often they are second and third and fourth homes. They are used as corporate retreats and party homes. I think you lose the character you have when people lived in the houses. Our working people have no place to live and our homes are empty. It’s depressing.”




Two of the homes in the top 10 were built in the ’80s, five in the ’90s and our current decade has filled out the list with three new ones. But with a recent change in the Pitkin County Land Use Code, voted on by Farris, houses of more than 15,000 square feet were banned. This top 10 isn’t likely to change unless the code is rewritten.

The homes on the list are wide-ranging, from just more than 15,000 square feet to the 52,000 square feet of Hala Ranch.

Some residential buildings, such as affordable housing complexes and an 18,000-square-foot house owned by the Little Star Foundation were taken off of the list because they are not single-family dwellings.

The chief appraiser for Pitkin County, Larry Fite, said the average house size in Pitkin County is 3,660 square feet but the median is 3,032.

“The average is a bit skewed because of a few really big ones,” Fite said. “Obviously, the bigger the house, the more valuable it will be.”

Neighborhood, views and other factors figure in to the total value, Fite said, mentioning he would have to take out a mortgage to pay a single year of Prince Bandar’s taxes: $268,386.

No matter the monsters, it’s clear Pitkin County as a whole is far above the national average house size. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average single-family house finished in 2006 had 2,469 square feet, an increase of 769 from 1976.

The above-average size of Pitkin County homes doesn’t even take into account that so many are, as Farris said, second, third or fourth homes.

“The West End is absolutely beautiful but it’s like a movie set,” Farris said. “It’s absolutely beautiful but there’s nobody there.”

jstonington@aspentimes.com