Snowmass’ Base Village sells for $165M

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

SNOWMASS VILLAGE The Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest Corp. sold lucrative development property at the base of Snowmass ski area Thursday to Pat Smith and a powerful New York City firm.Related WestPac announced that it finalized the long-anticipated purchase of Base Village after six months of studies and wooing lenders. “It’s been a marathon week,” said Smith, president of Related WestPac.The purchase price wasn’t disclosed, and no deeds were recorded Thursday with the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder. However, sources close to the deal said the Base Village property sold for $165 million. Intrawest and the Skico were also paid for the construction of facilities that had been completed.The town of Snowmass Village has already approved 1 million square feet of residential and commercial space at Base Village. That includes 600 luxury residential units.The Skico will continue to run the ski area.Construction is under way, and the first phase, which features a 26,000-square-foot children’s center, will open next winter. The whole project is scheduled to for completion in 2011. The new owners will stick with the existing approvals, Smith said.

Intrawest will remain on the job during a 45-day transition period. The new owner has offered numerous Intrawest workers jobs, including project manager Michael O’Connor, Smith said. O’Connor is weighing his options, according to Smith.An 800-pound gorillaRelated WestPac is a joint venture partnership between Smith’s WestPac Investments LLC, and the Related Companies. WestPac is a privately held development company that operates in five Western states. Smith’s company previously acquired majority interests in the Snowmass Center and parts of the Snowmass Mall, known as West Village.Related Companies, one of the biggest private development firms in the country, became a partner in the Snowmass Center and the mall in separate transactions Thursday. That places about 80 acres of prime development land and essentially all the commercial property in Snowmass Village in the hands of one company.That could present advantages and disadvantages, said Snowmass Village Councilman Arnie Mordkin. On one hand, development of the three major projects can be better coordinated when there is one owner. On the other hand, it creates a monopolistic landlord.”It’s always of concern when you have one entity controlling everything,” Mordkin said.Former Snowmass Village mayor Jeff Tippett said the completion of the deal didn’t come as a surprise: “Once Related got involved, the question of could Pat Smith come up with the money went away,” he said.

The Related Companies brought financial clout to such a massive project. Bank of America, CharterMac, Hypo Real Estate Capital Company and JER are providing financing for the various deals, according to the announcement.Intrawest won’t be missedFor some Snowmass Village residents, the departure of Intrawest will be welcome. Tippett said the company has a reputation for “penny-pinching.” That became apparent last summer when the company failed to mitigate the dirt and dust on village roads adequately, he said: “I’m not sorry to see them go.”On the other hand, the change of hands creates some uncertainty. “Right now, it’s not a question – we know what we’re getting with the Ski Company and Intrawest,” Tippett said. “With Pat Smith, nobody knows.”Tippett wants to know, for example, how Related WestPac will manage construction and how its product will turn out.Base Village was a logical place to start development when Snowmass Ski Area evolved in the 1960s. Instead it is the final piece of the puzzle for the resort. The Skico purchased the property in the late 1990s and enlisted Intrawest as a development partner by 2000.

Skico intended to sell the development eventually, but Smith’s offer to buy Base Village last year unexpectedly advanced that process, Skico managing partner Jim Crown has said. Smith bought the commercial component of Base Village on Nov. 1, while working on an offer for the entire project. WestPac and Related Companies announced their partnership in January.Smith indicated that he plans on staying directly involved with developing Base Village and the other properties rather than selling them.Uncertainty from another sale isn’t a big concern for Snowmass Village Mayor Doug “Merc” Mercatoris. It’s a given what the Base Village project will be, he said. Any changes are subject to review by the town council.The Snowmass Center is nearing the end of the second of three review stages. A clear picture of that project is emerging, Mercatoris said. No review has started for redevelopment of the mall area.Mercatoris saw more advantages than disadvantages to the concentration of ownership of the three commercial nodes of the town: “The advantage that consolidated ownership can bring to the table is sequencing, phasing and construction management,” he said.A concern would be if the landlord drove commercial rents up and “mom and pop” shops out, Mercatoris said. But the buzz in town is that Smith’s organization is working to keep locally owned business in operation, he said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is