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New owner ready to build Dancing Bear

Janet Urquhart

The new owner of a long-vacant eyesore on the fringes of downtown Aspen says he’s ready to build the boutique hotel that was approved for the site nearly two years ago.Florida resident Tom DiVenere acquired the Aspen Manor property at the corner of Durant Avenue and Monarch Street last December for slightly more than $6 million. The old lodge has been vacant for years.He hopes to begin construction late this year of the Dancing Bear Lodge, a redevelopment that won city approval nearly two years ago under the property’s prior owner, Florida-based MSE Aspen Holdings Inc., headed by Michael S. Egan.Dancing Bear architect David Brown brought the property to DiVenere’s attention.”I was very interested in the Dancing Bear and what it could become in downtown Aspen,” DiVenere said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “I think it’s a very special place, with its position next to Wagner Park. I’m looking forward to making it a very nice-looking corner.”DiVenere said he’s also in talks with the developers of the proposed ChartHouse Lodge, where a vacant restaurant building now sits across the street on Durant. The proposed 11 fractional-ownership suites at the ChartHouse have received conceptual approval but not a final go-ahead from the city.DiVenere said he may be interested in acquiring the property or at least a joint operation for the sales and marketing of the two lodges and, ultimately, their management.The Dancing Bear plans include nine fractional suites, but DiVenere said he’s considering a club-style arrangement instead, in which buyers pay a membership fee that gives them use of a unit for a guaranteed number of weeks, plus unlimited additional use when space is available.He is a member at The Timbers Club in Snowmass Village, which offers a similar arrangement.Whether the Dancing Bear is sold in one-eighth fractions – 72 in all – or to members, DiVenere anticipates a market for the small hotel in Aspen, where timeshare/fractional developments are all the rage.”We are going to offer a boutique-style hotel … for those who enjoy a small-hotel feel,” he said. “I think there is a strong market for that.”DiVenere, a visitor to Aspen since the early 1980s, owned the Aspen Lodging Co., a property management firm, from 1991 to 1998.The Dancing Bear and ChartHouse projects aren’t the only pending transformations on the western edge of Wagner Park. Owners of the adjacent Limelite Lodge are also moving forward with a redevelopment plan. They hope to start construction after the lifts shut down next spring and reopen a new mid-priced lodge for the 2007-08 ski season. That project also includes free-market townhomes.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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