Lodge plan to topple Tippler?
October 30, 2002
A newly formed partnership of developers has proposed construction of a fractional-ownership project, The Residences at Little Nell, at the base of Aspen Mountain.CWA Development submitted conceptual plans to the city this week for the 31-unit lodge, to be sold in one-seventh shares, with ski-in, ski-out access to the Little Nell ski run and the Silver Queen Gondola.A foursome of managing partners in CWA Development has spent most of the past year amassing property at the base of the mountain, where the vacant Tippler nightclub, Tipple Inn, Tipple Lodge and other residences currently exist.”We believe it’s the best piece of property in America,” said Scot Matteson, one of the partners.The group has hired architects Bill Poss and Associates to design what they’re calling a “fractional lodge” extending from Dean Street up the slope alongside the main portal to the mountain. The 1.25-acre site is across Dean Street from the North of Nell condominiums and to a skier’s left of the gondola. The Residence’s main entryway and lobby will be located off the corner of Galena and Dean streets.The 31 residences will contain rooms that can be “locked off” and rented separately to create up to 60 units available as short-term lodge accommodations when they are not in use by owners and their guests, according to the proposal.Commercial space, a public restaurant/bar and slopeside, aprs-ski deck in the general vicinity of the old Tippler outdoor deck ? opposite the slope from the Ajax Tavern patio ? are also in the plans.”The concept is a lights-on situation for the base of the mountain ? a rejuvenation of the base of the mountain,” said Patrick Smith, also a managing partner. “The other thing that’s really exciting is opening up the gondola plaza with more aprs ski.””It’s too bad there’s nothing going on on that side of the mountain,” added partner Steve Bellotti.CWA’s managing partners ? Bellotti of Aspen-based Aspen Blue Sky Holdings; Patrick Smith, president of WestPac Investments Inc./Smith and Co.; and Matteson and Michael Smith, both with Centurion Partners LLC in Newport Beach, Calif. ? came together when they discovered they were all pursuing various pieces of real estate at the base of the mountain.The group coalesced to pursue one project involving several parcels.In July, CWA purchased the Tippler building, once home to a raucous night spot dubbed “the Crippler,” from Sirous Saghatoleslami, who had approvals to construct four townhomes on the site. The partnership has also acquired the 12-unit Tipple Lodge, owned by three members of the Faulkner family, and submitted plans to construct two additional townhomes there.The group has also approached the seven owners of the 12 Tipple Inn units and now have contracts in place to purchase that property, as well.In all, 29 separate properties have to be acquired from 15 sellers to make the project work, but CWA found property owners enthusiastic about the project, according to Bellotti. Two families will own year-round units in the new project.The partners declined to estimate the total cost of amassing the real estate.”The prices that we paid were more than fair,” Bellotti said. “It didn’t take a lot of coercion.”Despite a downturn in the economy and skier visits in Aspen, the CWA partners say they’re confident the timing is right for their project and that the project is right for Aspen.They gathered Tuesday in the offices of Gallagher Sharp West, which is marketing the project, to discuss their plans.”I think we’re starting at the perfect time,” said Patrick Smith, predicting a rebound by the time the project is built several years from now.”We’re just so bullish on Aspen. We believe it is the premier ski resort,” said Michael Smith.Lining up investors, including a number in Europe, has not been difficult, according to Bellotti. “Everybody knows the base of Aspen Mountain.”I think Aspen’s economy is missing this type of property,” he added. “We think this is a great project for Aspen. We think the city will see that.”Aspen has already approved the 51-suite Hyatt Grand Aspen ? a timeshare hotel also designed by Bill Poss and Associates ? down the street from the proposed Residences at Little Nell. The target market for the two properties will not overlap, Bellotti predicted.Conceptual plans for The Residences will go to the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission on Dec. 3. The plans call for about 110,000 square feet of above-grade space, including about 12,000 square feet of commercial space, and underground parking.The average height of the building is 42 feet. It ranges from 20 feet to 56 feet, according to architect Kim Weil, a principal with Bill Poss and Associates.CWA is proposing some on-site affordable housing for workers and has acquired a site at the Aspen Airport Business Center to construct additional housing, according to Bellotti.The submitted plans for two townhomes to replace the Tipple Lodge, in conjunction with the four townhomes approved for the Tippler property, are a backup plan, Bellotti explained. That’s not the project CWA wants to pursue, he said.Townhomes are not the best use for a prime site at the base of the mountain, Poss agreed.”It really is better for the city to have a hotel rather than six townhomes,” he said.[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]