W Hotel work gets underway in Aspen

With an eye on opening the W Hotel by 2019, developers began site work last week to prep for demolition of the slopeside Sky Hotel on Aspen Mountain.

The work signaled the end of a more than yearlong construction delay that was due to litigation with neighbors and financing obstacles for Washington, D.C.-based developer and Sky Hotel owner Northridge Capital, which is working with Aspen developer John Sarpa on the project.

Developers originally had hoped to break ground in April 2016 and open the hotel in time for the World Cup Finals held in March. Last week will have to do instead.

“We started our work on site on Tuesday and for the next few weeks will be putting up the sound fencing and getting the site ready for demolition,” Sarpa said Friday in an email to The Aspen Times. “Demolition and then excavation will start soon thereafter.”

A building permit application on file with the city puts the project’s cost at $56 million.

The first step calls for tearing down the existing 43,605-square-foot, 90-room Sky Hotel at 709 E. Durant Ave. and replacing it the 91,500-square-foot W Hotel.

The Aspen resort, more than twice the size as Sky Hotel, would be W Hotels & Resorts’ first alpine hotel in North America. W Hotels is a luxury-hotel division of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, based in Stamford, Connecticut. Starwood merged with Marriott International in September.

W Hotels markets its products toward younger, affluent guests.

The Aspen version will feature 104 rooms, which include 11 fractional-ownership units, along with a rooftop patio bar with a pool and hot tub, fire pits, a dance floor, a cabana and panoramic views of Aspen Mountain, among other features.

“The new W Aspen Hotel guests and residential owners will be much the same as they have been with the Sky Hotel with an even stronger international component because of the worldwide strength of the W Hotel brand,” Sarpa said. “The young and young at heart are going to love this new property. Aspen’s need for new hotel rooms will also be a strong draw for tourism.”

Sarpa said room rates will “be priced just below the luxury market in Aspen.”

From January through March, Aspen’s average room rates were $593.62 a night, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report that is commissioned by the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Commission. That was tops in the state, while Aspen’s 81.3 percent occupancy rate also led all of Colorado’s markets, according to the report.

Meanwhile, all of Sky Hotels employees were terminated as a result of the closure. Sarpa said they can apply for new jobs at the W Hotel. Sky Hotel had employed more than 90 workers, according to the Colorado Department of Labor.

It is too early to tell how many full-time jobs the W Hotel will create, said project spokesman R.J. Gallagher Jr.