Blumenthal: Cash still king when it comes to Base Village | AspenTimes.com

Blumenthal: Cash still king when it comes to Base Village

Mel Blumenthal
Second View

Mel Blumenthal

Although the weather has been beautiful in Spain the past two weeks, it's cold, windy and rainy this afternoon in Seville so I decided to get an early jump on this week's column from the comfort of the historic Hotel Alfonso XIII. More about Spain later.

Unable to do much outside this afternoon and between naps in preparation for our midnight viewing (Spain time) of the Republican debate from the Reagan Library, I've been catching up on international and local Snowmass news, including a replay of portions of last week's Town Council meeting.

An ironic bit of amusement comes from Roger Marolt's column last week in which he laments a number of old issues previously discussed to death concerning Base Village. Like Roger, I've also been eagerly awaiting Related's payment to the town of $8 million in lieu of fulfilling their obligation to build a new Westin-style hotel and conference center in the Mall area.

Unfortunately the joke is on Roger and the rest of us, since unbeknownst to most of us, the town staff quite some time ago negotiated security to cover Related's potential default. That security consists of an interest in a developable parcel of land in the vicinity of Snowmass Center.

Inasmuch as another investment group has already redeveloped the old Silvertree Hotel into a Westin and Related appears to have no further interest in redeveloping the Mall or Snowmass Center, which they also own, I've been advised they're just planning to let the town foreclose its security interest on the developable parcel and thereby avoid paying the town the huge chunk of cash we've been eagerly anticipating.

Who knows what that land parcel is really worth today and whether there is anyone ready and foolish enough to pay a huge chuck of cash to get their hands on it — if there is, it's unlikely the town will be able to fetch anywhere near $8 million.

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Sorry Roger, it appears that you and the rest of us will just have to suck it up once again while Related has the last laugh.

On a similar note, the Town Council is working toward a consensus concerning Related's community purpose proposals. It appears headed in the direction of accepting Related's offer of ownership of a building in the middle of the Base Village commercial core, which the town would become responsible for leasing to a nonprofit entity such as the Ice Age Discovery Center, a science center, etc. or to a for-profit retail, restaurant or other entertainment-type facility.

The town, steeped in its traditional municipal functions and responsibilities, is inexperienced in operating and overseeing either commercial or nonprofit business operations. Why should we trust they can quickly get up to speed in such ventures, and why should the taxpayers be left responsible for the attendant costs and risks associated with owning such a building and operating such businesses?

A better alternative for the town would be to accept Related's offer of cash (paid upfront so Related doesn't get the last laugh again) rather than accept ownership of a building that might just turn into a white elephant in the middle of Base Village. That cash could be put to productive use as the lead contribution in a capital campaign among a diverse array of supporters who are clamoring for a multi-use performing arts and science facility on land the town already owns.

Two out of four council members participating in the preliminary review process are sold on the viability of an Ice Age Discovery Center in the heart of Base Village and the other two not so much nor have I heard resounding support in the community for locating the Discovery Center in such a key and highly prized location that cries out for a commercial or entertainment attraction of much wider and longer lasting appeal.

Seeing the sweat and tension on the faces of Related's executive team as they try to sell our council members on accepting their gift of a piece of real estate in the middle of the Base Village commercial core says to me the town should be extremely cautious when playing in Related's sandbox. It doesn't pass the smell test as far as I'm concerned. I fear once Related is long gone and the kimono is opened, we'll end up regretting having accepted this gift. Cash is king — whatdaya think, Roger?

It's now Sunday morning and the sun is rising over the clear blue skies and dark blue/green waters of the Atlantic just a few feet from our room at the Marbella Beach Club. Paulette and I, along with our traveling companions, the Grosses and Welfelds, will soon be ending another magical international expedition having traversed a diverse array of cities, towns and villages including Lisbon, Madrid, Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Ronda and Marbella. We took in a lot of history and culture including a rich assortment of cathedrals, churches, museums, gardens and of course a few shops and great restaurants along the way, but best of all is finishing the trip with good friends on the beach in Marbella, holding up our wine glasses and toasting the conclusion of another great adventure.

Salud.

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