Mall owners need to use common sense
The Snowmass Village Planning Commission meeting held on May 29 was a relatively straightforward and quiet session working toward finalization of its resolution concerning the Base Village sketch plan application.
However, the last few minutes of the meeting evolved into a heated exchange initiated by Pat Lido representing Gateway Partners (owners of that portion of the mall nearest the transit center).
It is my impression, after listening to Mr. Lido and Gary Suiter (who also represents Gateway Partners and Shell Properties LLC), that the mall owners/landlords still do not have a plan to upgrade the mall and they have no intention to expend the capital necessary to improve the appearance, quality and mix of the retail environment at the mall.
Their emerging strategy appears to consist of an attempt to generate the community’s sympathy for their current plight, which they have brought upon themselves and upon Snowmass Village over many years of neglecting to address the deficiencies of the mall and an arrogant attitude toward those who have suggested that they need to address these concerns.
They now appear afraid that the initial phases of Base Village retail construction will dilute and therefore hurt their business as landlords.
There is probably some truth to their concern of retail dilution at the mall, since the initial construction phase of Base Village will focus primarily on the build-out of the retail portions rather than the residential portions of Base Village.
However, since they have done nothing to date to demonstrate a long-term commitment to improving the financial health of Snowmass Village, how can we as a community be expected to be sympathetic to their foreseeable problem?
Is it conceivable to anyone that Intrawest could attract a significant number of buyers and guests to justify constructing hundreds of new residential units prior to the construction and opening of the new Base Village retail and customer service businesses?
The current mall is certainly not diversified, appealing or convenient enough to draw and retain all of the new customers we need to insure the economic viability of Snowmass Village now and into the future.
Reading between the lines, I get the horrible feeling that the only plan the mall owners/landlords have is to initiate a legal assault on the town, Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co. to stop the development and construction of Base Village.
It appears that the mall owners/landlords think they have the right to be the exclusive retail center in Snowmass Village. It is incumbent upon all of us who live, shop and seek entertainment and recreation in Snowmass to disabuse them of this fantasy.
The downside of their game is that the development and construction of Base Village will be significantly delayed by legal action and possibly killed if Intrawest loses patience with these delays and merely moves on to its next resort project.
As a community, dependent upon bringing lots of people to the Village and keeping them here to live, shop, dine and be entertained, we can’t expect to do it with the current state of the mall.
All objective evidence shows that the current mall is not working and that the residents and guests we do attract spend their money in Aspen, not Snowmass. This situation must change or Snowmass could become a ghost town in the not-too-distant future.
With the new Base Village as the center of retail and customer services, I’ve never heard anyone with an in-depth knowledge of this community make a rational or sensible case for a second successful retail center at the mall.
Does anyone think that our residents and guests would continue to patronize the mall merchants with all of the attendant inconveniences of the mall location and lack of diversity when we have a new Base Village with a diversified and attractive mix of retail, entertainment and customer services?
By the way, are there any merchants willing to continue paying high rents for a very reduced customer base at the mall?
It seems that the simple and obvious solution to this dilemma is for the mall owners, the town, Intrawest and the Skico to work toward a conversion of the mall into a center for H.O.T. bed residences and expanded conference facilities and to increase the commercial space in Base Village.
In addition to reducing the height, mass and scale of the buildings in Base Village (which is still a serious problem with the current sketch plan application), this plan would also give a much needed lifeline to the current mall merchants who could be released from their current high rent leases to relocate in the new Base Village.
The hillside on which the mall is built is better situated than Base Village to accommodate the height, mass and scale of all the new residential units needed by the Village.
Rather than putting all of its available capital in the hands of its lawyers and consultants to fight the development and construction of Base Village, it would be smarter for the mall owners/landlords and more beneficial to the community if they would allocate their funds to a redevelopment of the mall along the lines suggested above.
In my last letter to the editor I was critical of the planning commission’s position on some of the important outstanding issues in the Base Village sketch plan application, e.g. height, mass, scale and density of the buildings and protection of our world class view planes.
In that letter, however, I noted to be fair that I would await their resolution, which, although it is not yet complete, does appear to address these concerns, and they have strongly recommended further study and evaluation of these matters.
Our thanks go out to the planning commission and the planning department staff (Chris Conrad and Jim Wahlstrom) for their many weeks and long hours in reviewing and making recommendations concerning the Base Village sketch plan application.
Mel D. Blumenthal
Enclave Homeowners Association
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