New Hotel Aspen ownership eyes spring construction

A man assesses the newly sold Hotel Aspen building while walking down Main Street in Aspen on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The new ownership of the Hotel Aspen, which was acquired last week for $37.5 million, in recent years also has bought and restored properties in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Palm Beach, Florida, into luxury boutique hotels.

White Elephant Aspen LLC is the name of the company that bought the 45-unit Hotel Aspen, according to a special warranty deed recorded Friday in Pitkin County. The LLC is controlled by New England Development LLC, a privately held Boston-based firm also behind the ownership of two boutique hotels called The White Elephant in both Nantucket and Palm Beach.

Responding with an email statement to questions regarding its plans for the Hotel Aspen and whether a White Elephant was in 110 E. Main St.’s future, New England Development President Douglass said: “New England Development can confirm the purchase of Hotel Aspen in Aspen, Colorado. Hotel Aspen will remain operating at least through April 2022. After that time we hope to begin construction on the new hotel, with more details to follow.”

New England Development owns White Elephant Resorts, which in addition to its namesake hotels in Massachusetts and Florida also operates Nantucket lodges called The Wauwinet, Jared Coffin House, and The Cottages at Nantucket Boat Basin.

As well, New England Development has ownership in the Newbury Boston and The Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, and has invested in retail, airport and restaurant projects primarily in the northeast.

“Our robust, national portfolio includes mixed-use developments that combine retail, residential, office, and hotel uses, plus some of the country’s most widely-recognized and successful regional centers,” according to the company’s website. “A nationally celebrated planned community, outlet centers, high-end and street-front retail, airport retail, office and lab space, hotels, golf courses, restaurants, and marinas round out New England Development’s diverse portfolio.”

The Hotel Aspen, which was built in 1985, and its 45 condo units had been owned by Aaron and Michael Brown since 2003. Their company, HayMax Capital, also owns Molly Gibson Lodge on Main Street, two lodges in Ketchum, Idaho, and is the developer of the unbuilt Lift One Lodge at the base of Aspen Mountain.

The Browns could not be reached Monday. Haymax Capital’s website said the Hotel Aspen was positioned for redevelopment: “Current ownership has invested considerable equity in re-positioning the asset, in addition to a rigorous hands-on management approach, which has produced strong financial performance. HayMax Capital secured entitlements for the land that allow for the development of a new boutique luxury hotel with 54 rooms and three 5,000 square feet luxury homes.”

The three-bedroom lodge’s rooms currently range from 289 to 633 square feet of livable space, according to property records.

Bob Morris was once co-owner of the Hotel Aspen and he currently manages Aspen Mountain Lodge, also under the Browns’ purview. The sale signals another loss of one of Aspen’s mid-priced lodges that won’t be replaced, he said.

“My competitive set in the middle is shrinking rapidly, and it’s now being replaced with luxury-rate hotels,” he said.

In March, Aspen’s oldest owner-built lodge — Mountain Chalet — sold for $68 million to a partnership led by Zach Kupperman of Louisiana and Larry McGuire of Texas, also owners of Clark’s Oyster Bar, the former Little Annie’s space, in Aspen.

Aspen lodges continue to charge the highest rates in the state, as evidenced in the latest Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.

With an average daily rate of $689.97, Aspen lodges charged the most in September, a month that included the rescheduled Food & Wine Classic and other events. Through September, Aspen lodges averaged $702.80 a day, also solidly the state’s highest, with Telluride at second with an average rate of $492.14, according to the report, which is commissioned by Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association.