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New ownership wants Snowmass hotel on level of Viceroy, Limelight


Prior to closing last week on the $70 million sale of three properties including the Westin Snowmass Hotel, the new ownership already had brought in a management company to replace the current one as it begins to rebrand the slopeside property.

Atlanta-based Davidson Hotels & Resorts about three weeks ago took the management reins at the 254-room, slopeside hotel, which has been run under the Westin flag and previously the management of Connecticut-based HEI Hotels & Resorts.

While the Westin flag is still flying, the new ownership plans to upgrade the hotel to a four-star property and have it join entrance into Marriott’s Autograph Collection, a division of luxury hotels.



Yet, rather than tethering the hotel to a big name like Westin or Marriott, under the Autograph Collection’s “soft flag” the hotel will be able to operate with more flexibility and autonomy, said Karim Souki of Aspen, who is part of the new ownership structure.

“It allows you to do something that speaks to the local society and culture instead of having the corporate brand being dictated to you,” he said.



Souki and Clayton Randle are the principles of RGP Partners, an affiliate of Aspen private equity firm Ajax Holdings and part of the new ownership-structure comprised of High Street Real Estate Partners of Atlanta and Zurich-based firm ACRON Group, which buys and redevelops hotels.

The seller was Silvertree Propco LLC, an affiliate of Starwood Capital Group and Wasserman Real Estate, which had owned the properties since June 2011.

RGP and High Street are essentially the general partners and ACRON is the financial partner, Souki said. RGP joined the venture over the summer, he said. That alliance came after High Street and ACRON previously had the Westin, as well as the Snowmass Conference Center and Wildwood Lodge — which were part of last week’s deal — under contract in January. The sale, however, collapsed under the March lockdown, Souki said.

“During that process they were looking particularly for a group on the ground to partner with them, to manage the project, someone here who understands what the locals want and creating a project people here want, instead of some big-city investors buying it and putting something nobody wants there,” Souki said.

The new ownership also has hired Aspen firm BendonAdams to help it navigate the planning and development waters of Snowmass Village government.

Neither the 254-room Westin nor the Wildwood or conference center are being eyed for demolition, said Souki, noting that could trigger a review process that could drag on for three or four years. Fractional ownership also isn’t part of the plan, he said.

The Westin hotel will stay open through the ski season before any serious renovation work begins, Souki said. There is no shake-up on the staff other than the new management company he said. Building-permit applications have yet to be submitted, he said.

“It’s important it (the hotel) doesn’t get taken out of commission too long,” he said.

The renovation will cost $40 million, according to company documents from ACRON.

The revamped hotel’s interior “will look like a completely different hotel,” Souki said, noting it will be on the same footing as the Viceroy and Limelight hotels in Snowmass.

“That is a marquee property in Snowmass,” he said of the Westin. “We’ve been watching and following the Snowmass story and we always thought when Snowmass finally gets going on the Base Village, then it could really be something spectacular given the slopeside frontage of that hotel. It needs to be to the standard of Snowmass and complement Snowmass Base Village.”

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

 


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