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Timeshares planned for Grand Aspen

Brent Gardner-Smith

The new owners of the Grand Aspen hotel want to join a trend sweeping the ski industry and redevelop the hotel in downtown Aspen as a vacation ownership, or timeshare, project.The move comes after a plan for a “moderately priced, upscale hotel” was conceptually approved by the city in 1999.If the change is approved, the project would be the first modern vacation ownership project in downtown Aspen. Similar projects are currently being marketed at the Snowmass Club and the Timbers Club in Snowmass Village and the Ritz Club at Aspen Highlands.The Grand Aspen hotel, which is behind the Silver Circle Ice Rink and between the Little Nell and the St. Regis hotels, is currently dark and scheduled to be torn down in mid-April.Four Peaks Management, LLC, which counts David Parker, Scott Writer, Sam Houston and Frank Goldsmith as principals, paid $30 million for the hotel site, 13 luxury homesites at the base of Aspen Mountain and an employee housing site near the west end of Main Street. One of the world’s largest real estate investment trusts, Colony Capital, is a major investor in the project.The new owners want to develop the project with 51 club suites instead of hotel rooms. The suites would be a mix of two-, three- and four-bedroom units. A fractional interest in each suite, ranging from a 1/12 to a 1/21 interest, will be sold, and buyers will own an interest in a specific unit. When the owners are not here, the units will be available for rental by visitors on a nightly basis.Fractional ownership projects can take on a variety of forms, with buyers purchasing anywhere from one week a year at a property to several months of access. At the new Snowmass Club project, the condo units have seven owners each.Don Schuster, the Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of real estate, is developing the Snowmass Club project and has studied the new vacation ownership market extensively. He believes such a concept will do well at the Grand Aspen site.”I think there will be market acceptance for it,” Schuster said. “It is a prime beachfront location.”Four Peaks is scheduled to go back to the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission on March 6 to seek an amendment to the conceptual approvals granted to the hotel’s prior owner, Savannah Limited Partnership.”It won’t need to be a full-blown review of the conceptual approval,” said Joyce Ohlson, deputy community development director for the city of Aspen. “But we need to re-evaluate the change in use.”The 1999 resolution from the Aspen City Council approving the new hotel specifically states that it will consist of “moderately priced, upscale hotel units.””The whole idea was to have it as an affordable category,” said Bob Blaich, the chairman of the Aspen P&Z, “and not to find ourselves in a situation with another high-end hotel.”Four Peaks believes that a vacation ownership concept will generate more visitors to Aspen than a traditional hotel would.”Interval ownership has an established history of higher occupancies than hotels, and on average, interval owners have a higher per capita spending when on vacation,” wrote Aspen attorney Ron Garfield in a letter to the Aspen Community Development Department on behalf of Four Peaks.Schuster agrees.”My gut reaction is that it will generate a higher occupancy and more hot beds for the city than a hotel would on the site,” he said.Four Peaks is not proposing any changes to the hotel’s height or overall size of 115,000 square feet, but mainly wants to rearrange the inside of the proposed project by changing the number and layout of the rooms and eliminating traditional hotel functions such as meeting space, a retail shop and a restaurant.It also wants to change the location of the entrance of the underground parking garage from Galena Street to Dean Street.The group is proposing a slight change to its conceptual approval at the top of Mill Street by further subdividing one parcel that contains a parking structure that belongs to the Summit Place condos. The number of homes at the site would stay the same. And no changes are being suggested for the Bavarian Inn employee housing portion of the project.


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