Skico and Intrawest prepare for new village |

Skico and Intrawest prepare for new village

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

While the detailed application for the proposed new village at the base of the Snowmass Ski Area has yet to be presented, there are two other strong signs that the project is moving toward reality.

The first sign is that the partners in the ski village, the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest of Vancouver, Canada, are opening a sales office on Thursday in the former Aspen Drug space on the Hyman Avenue mall.

The “discovery center” will be run by an Intrawest company called Playground, which specializes in marketing resort real estate.

It is currently selling one-eighth interests in a 21-unit project at the Snowmass Club called The Sanctuary, but will soon begin generating sales for the proposed new ski-in, ski-out village in Snowmass.

The second sign that a new village is about to emerge is that the Skico has put under contract a building at the Aspen Business Center across from the airport to use as its new corporate headquarters. The building, known as Plaza 117, is the Skico’s former headquarters that it custom built in 1982 and then sold in 1994 for $2.1 million.

Most of the company’s top executives currently work out of an administration building at the base of the Snowmass Ski Area, which could be torn down by next winter to make way for the proposed new village.

“We clearly are doing this in the anticipation of the project becoming a reality,” said David Perry, senior vice president of the Skico.

He declined to disclose how much the Skico was paying to get its old building back.

Hansen Construction of Aspen owns the building and is retaining about a third of the space in the building, toward the back, for its offices.

The Skico is buying 14,000 square feet of space and plans on remodeling to suit their current needs, according to Perry. The building is currently home to a number of small offices and businesses whose leases all end sometime in 2003.

“We weren’t looking to buy the building as an investment,” Perry said, responding to the suggestion that the Skico’s decision was forcing some local businesses to move out of the building. “We needed space and decided we would like to centralize our administration. And the timing had to work for us. And clearly he [Hansen] has aligned his lease terms to all be ending this year.”

So as the Skico returns to a centralized location at the ABC, it is also forging new ground by opening, with its Canadian partner, an expansive downtown space to promote its current and anticipated real estate projects.

The former Aspen Drug space on the corner of Hyman and Galena has been transformed from a simple drug store into a sophisticated venue to get people excited about both The Sanctuary and the new “Snowmass Village,” which is the name that Intrawest has given to the project long known as “Base Village.” (The official name of municipality in the resort is the “Town of Snowmass Village.”)

And the selling of the proposed “Snowmass Village” begins on the outside of the building with a variety of lofty statements painted in white letters on the windows.

“Snowmass Village is a high alpine village streaming with bright sunshine and soft shadows, sidewalk cafes and open terraces, fine dining and exhilarating nightlife underground,” one front window panel states.

“Shopping, entertainment, fine dining, people watching and a high energy lifestyle laid out at the feet of nature’s playground ? this is the mountain experience of Snowmass Village,” reads another.

Inside, instead of a sales counter and a magazine stand that were found in the old drugstore, there is now a burnished-metal wall set at an angle with a neon “bullseye” sign on it. Behind that, is log cabin-style wall.

Those interested in learning more about Snowmass real estate will be invited to go between the two walls and enter a small professional-grade theater, where a 13-minute video extols the virtues of Storied Places, another Intrawest company that is developing and operating select real estate projects around the world, including The Sanctuary at the Snowmass Club.

The video locates the project in “Snowmass, Colorado,” and plays off the resort community’s ranching heritage. It also powerfully evokes warm feelings of spending time with family and loved ones surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.

Visitors will leave the small theater by another door and be ushered into one of several smaller areas in the back of the building that include large models of the projects and tasteful photos on the wall.

In all, the renovation of the space cost $850,000, said Michael Coyle, Intrawest?s senior vice president of marketing and the head of both Playground and Storied Places.

“We’re trying to help people fall in love with what we are doing,” he said. “It’s not about bricks and sticks, and it is not about the ‘great indoors.’ It is about telling a story.”

Intrawest has built similar “discovery centers” at its projects in Lake Las Vegas, Nev., and Sandestin, Fla. And they seem to be highly effective, as Intrawest pre-sells 72 percent of its real estate offerings before they are built, according to its 2002 annual report.

Last year, the company saw revenues of $986 million, with $488 million coming from the sale of resort real estate.

The average price per unit sold by the company at U.S. resorts was $442,000. That figure reflects the sale of condos, townhomes and single-family lots.

The “Snowmass Village,” nee Base Village, project was conceptually approved last year with 683 units, which are to be sold as wholly owned condos.

The detailed proposal from Intrawest and the Skico is expected to be submitted by the end of this month and is to include about 650 units, which, at $442,000 each ? a very low price for a slopeside Snowmass condo ? would generate $287 million in revenue.

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is]

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