Town Council gives developers a break on hotel specifications | AspenTimes.com

Town Council gives developers a break on hotel specifications

The Basalt Town Council has given the Willits owners the boost they say they need to attract a full-service hotel to town.

The council amended its approval to allow the developers to build a bigger hotel than originally contemplated. The original approval was for a 150-room, 76,000-square-foot hotel.

Since earning approvals in May 2001, the Willits partners have altered their strategy. They are trying to attract a full-service hotel operator such as Hilton.

To do so, claimed Willits partner Michael Lipkin, they need flexibility in the development parameters. He noted that an unspecified developer of the hotel space “is into it” for $17 million, and the cost could climb. To get a loan, the developer needs extra amenities for the revenue stream – such as a ballroom, according to Lipkin.

“There’s a limit to how much we can tie his hands,” Lipkin told the Town Council.

Lipkin also noted that the hotel developer plans to build an 80-vehicle underground garage.

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The Willits owners asked that the square footage for the ballroom, a restaurant, spa and other special amenities be exempt from the floor-area calculations. That way, Lipkin said, the amenities needed to operate a full-service facility could be added.

Town Manager Tom Baker recommended approval of the request on grounds that a full-service hotel would be an important piece of Basalt’s economic development.

The council honored the request with little debate. Council members were more concerned about extracting an agreement to let the community use the ballroom twice per year.

Lipkin said he and his partners probably won’t know for months whether or not they landed a hotel operator such as Hilton. If successful, he hopes groundbreaking for the facility will start by the end of the fall.

The hotel could be the first to serve the El Jebel/West Basalt area, known to some as El JeBasalt. The Willits project is located just upvalley from the El Jebel City Market.

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