Marolt: Base Village chasing its tail | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Base Village chasing its tail

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

Roger Marolt

Related Amalgamated Partners Inc., LLC, got a Dear John letter in the form of a press release. It wasn't surprising or original. John took the writing from one of the unfinished walls of Baseless Village and transferred it to a sheet of newsprint.

You know the script: You have a great project here. It's going to be fantastic when it's finished. Really, it's nothing to do with you. It's us. We have commitment issues. We wish you nothing but the best!

Thank you, East West Partners. You treated our hometown like dirt. The thing is, though, so have all our other suitors.

It's getting harder to maintain our confidence. OK, so Aspen Skiing Co. brushes us off after proposing a marriage made in Assay and Fanny Hills. They wined and dined us. They made all kinds of promises. It was us and them forever. Then, as that old cowboy song goes, we gave them a ring and they gave us the finger.

Their departure set off a series of affairs with supposedly brilliant suitors who would waltz us across the dance floor of development parquet to a million square feet of faux Bavarian bliss. Remember Intrawest? Related Westpac? Bankruptcy Court, that led to many familiar-looking, shovel-leaning developers all with "Related" somewhere in their names?

Combined, all of these would-be Renaissancers amazingly spent more than 10 years managing to pretty much change everything about the original plan, break all kinds of promises, talk until they became blue in the face and we numb in the buns, and built pretty much nothing next to nothing with exposed rebar sticking out of it while making the whole project less appealing to everyone concerned, and otherwise.

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But, this is all muddy water beneath an unfinished bridge. What matters is the future. If only we could count on the dark, cold, gray skies hanging over Baseless Village to produce snow, we would be the powder skiing capital of the universe. Unfortunately, wishful thinking has about as much chance of producing top-buckle snowfall as we do of getting a new Limelight in Snowmass Village.

And, this highlights the single most potent portent for the completion of Baseless Village — Skico is too nervous about this project to go forward with constructing a new hotel in the middle of this Mess On The Mass. That is a really bad sign.

Remember? Skico came up with this plan way back in the day when I could still get out of bed without creaking. They know the ins and outs of the feasibilities and probabilities of success for this project. They did the pro formas, projections and due diligence before they got their approval to go ahead, which neatly coincided with an almost immediate dumping of the whole shebang into the hands of the next developer who didn't bother with any of the preliminary work other than signing on the bottom line of a gigantic no-doc construction loan with European bankers at the peak of the worldwide real estate boom in 2006.

The fact that Skico will not go ahead with building a new hotel here while they proudly proclaim the groundbreaking of a prototype of it in Sun Valley, Idaho, is telling: Skico believes a ski area at the side of the train tracks in the middle of nowhere is a better prospect than Snowmass Village. They have fouled their own nest and they know it!

So, where do we go from here? I'm afraid it is going to be a long, circuitous route back to the beginning. Mark my words: Base Village will be completed by Skico. They know this project better than anyone since they drew it up. They understand the local economics. They have reams of data about our demographics. There is no sensible developer that will pull the trigger to go forward with this project until Skico does, but by the time anyone realizes that they have, Skico will own the whole thing again.

Of course, the best predictions come with a time certain as to when they will come true. In giving you an answer to that, all I can say is that time equals money in this instance. This prophecy will come true as soon as Skico can buy this project back for a quarter on the dollar. In case you are wondering, no, we can't hold our breaths that long.

Roger Marolt believes Base Village has become a translucent elephant. roger@maroltllp.com