New focus for Aspen/Snowmass real estate forum |

New focus for Aspen/Snowmass real estate forum

Madeleine Osberger
Snowmass Village correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – At the inaugural Aspen/Snowmass State of the Real Estate and Tourism Economy forum held in 2009, the focus was primarily about buying and selling, what’s hot and what’s not, and how the forecast looked for the coming year.

Flash forward to the 2010 event, set for Friday at the Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows. Local trends and the sales forecast will certainly be part of the conversation, but so, too, will be the topic of social capital.

“How do you meet the challenge of building community?” is the question keynote speaker Chris Gates will pose to the group at large. All are invited to the session, which runs from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The event also features a panel discussion with Snowmass Sun columnist Mel Blumenthal, Aspen Daily News Editor Carolyn Sackariason, former Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud and David Perry, senior vice president at the Aspen Skiing Co. Tickets are $20 in advance and $30 at the door.

Gates, who earned a master’s degree from Harvard, has been involved in what he calls “a variety of community conversations” within the Roaring Fork Valley. He is familiar with what he terms the current “craziness” of Snowmass and also knows through experience that “the more beautiful the setting, the harder people fight” for what they believe.

“The stakes seem higher,” Gates said.

While he maintains that “community is what is required to solve problems and get things done,” he also recognizes that so much about politics in the last decade is pitting people against one another.

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“Pick your enemy – newcomers, developers, second-home owners. A lot of the conversation gets framed that way,” Gates said. “But communities are complex, textured things.” And like a plant, pet or a love affair, they need nurturing.

When asked for a concrete example of how he put his ideas into practice, Gates pointed to the successful Basalt Farmers’ Market, now in its second summer. The market “is one of the results of a year-long conversation. Old-timers certainly lament that there ‘used to be a community, but it was busted up,'” Gates said.

Now, it’s possible to see old-timers and newcomers side by side at the Sunday event, squeezing tomatoes, selecting dahlias and sampling wood-fired pizzas.

In Aspen, he said he was surprised that tensions have emerged, saying there remains this question of “who are you building community for?” He used, as an example, the debate over whether real estate agencies should occupy prime retail space or whether those spots are best reserved for, say, Louis Vuitton.

“Communities that get it” and then chart a plan to follow “it” find success through their efforts, he suggested.

Apply that same thinking to Snowmass, which arguably does a better job of bringing together seemingly disparate groups than do other neighboring towns, he said.

“I think there’s a ton of shared values,” Gates said. “You all may think you came from differing perspectives, but you absolutely share something, the love of this valley.”

And he maintained that “where there’s a community, you’re better able to meet the challenges in front of you.”

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