Snowmass mall owners urged to play bigger role in base village development | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass mall owners urged to play bigger role in base village development

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Snowmass Village Town Council told three of the owners of the Snowmass mall on Thursday that they should be actively responding to the proposed base village project.

“Are you guys willing and wanting to play a role in this process?” asked Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester of mall owners John Francis, Jeffrey Server and Bill Burwell. “The mall has not come forward with anything and this is a big problem. We need to make some decisions.”

Manchester poised his question at a meeting organized by the town. The meeting was designed to convince the major mall owners that the existing retail stores there would benefit from the proposed base village project that Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co. hope to build at the bottom of the Snowmass Ski Area.

The project, now called Brush Creek Village, calls for 151,000 square feet of new commercial space and 675 new condos. Of the commercial space, about 86,000 feet would be dedicated to either restaurants or retail stores.

By comparison, there is a total of 110,000 square feet of commercial space spread out over five buildings along the Snowmass mall, with about 58,000 square feet dedicated to restaurant and retail uses.

Walter Kieser, an economic consultant with the town, told the mall owners that when the new village is complete, retail sales in the mall will be stronger than they are today.

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“It can happen and everybody can benefit from it,” Kieser said.

In response to the town’s prodding to respond to the Brush Creek Village proposal, the mall owners present at Thursday’s meeting said they would be willing to meet to discuss ways to integrate the mall retail area with the new village, but that they would prefer to meet with Intrawest and others outside of a public forum.

Server, who represents the investors who own the middle section of the mall, said that he was conducting due diligence on a plan that might be complete next month.

Francis, who owns the Gateway section of the mall closest to the main bus stop, said he was willing to talk but he needed to know more details about the proposed village at the bottom of Fanny Hill.

And Burwell, the owner of the Silvertree Hotel and its collection of retail stores, said that he had already been meeting with Intrawest to discuss possible options for coordinating his retail mix with that of the proposed base village. He also doubted the rosy projections put forward by Kieser.

The massive Brush Creek Village project is currently being reviewed by the town’s Planning Commission, which is strident about there being a strong aerial connection, probably a gondola, between the new village and the mall.

And there is a host of issues that the Town Council is weighing that relate to a central commercial core for the resort, such as parking and transportation.

The council wants to see a “vital and vibrant” commercial core that includes the mall, the proposed base village and the Snowmass Center area, which has a large redevelopment application currently in front of the board.

But to date, the mall owners have been taking a wait-and-see approach to the base village, neither attending the town meetings on the project nor putting forth their own redevelopment plans.

This has frustrated the Town Council, which essentially told the mall owners on Thursday that they needed to either get on the bus or get left in the dust.

“We have a catalyst now,” Manchester said. “We have to work together to make this happen.”

But none of the owners on Thursday agreed to do more than meet with Intrawest and other stakeholders.

For its part, Intrawest, the largest developer of ski resort villages in North America, said that while its proposed Brush Creek Village project would benefit from a healthy Snowmass mall and that it is comfortable with the resort having two commercial nodes, it also believes that Brush Creek Village will be a success even if the mall goes downhill.

“We believe we are going to do ours and we will be successful,” said David Kleinkopf, a regional vice president with Intrawest.

And Kleinkopf wanted to make clear that Intrawest is not interested in buying the mall. “We are not prepared to step in and buy the mall,” he said.

But the mayor of Snowmass Village is concerned that a strong base village and a weak mall is bad for the resort.

“The mall is going to diminish,” Manchester said of one scenario, “and that’s the risk I’m trying to avoid.”

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