Marolt: A 15-year-old plan won’t give us what we need today | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: A 15-year-old plan won’t give us what we need today

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

Things have changed.

Things have changed drastically since the original Base Village plan was approved 10 years ago. Everyone knows this. Nobody disputes it. It is the reason that the gigantic construction project that has defined the new millennium for our town came to a grinding halt in 2009 and why this community is still debating the project today, albeit we are no longer divided over the need for getting this mess behind us. It is the dark cloud that won’t blow over.

Considering that we are nearly 15 years into this, beginning with the planning, suffering through the campaigning, enduring the groundbreaking, and playing the waiting game most of all, it appears obvious that the current Base Village plan is a bad one.

Even if, at a less rapid pace than desired, most of the country continues to emerge from the depths of global economic crisis. Debt has been restructured. Plans have been re-scaled. Forward progress has been re-initiated.

And here we sit, idle.

This idleness is not the will of the community. We have thrown up no roadblocks in front of this project since the Great Recession hit. We have been accommodating. We have been encouraging. Our patience has been an incredible concession made.

This idleness is not the will of the bankers financing the project. They have forgiven tens, if not hundreds, of millions of the developer’s debt to hopefully give the project life. This debt forgiveness goes right to the developer’s bottom line. It is income they have realized for doing nothing.

This idleness is not the will of the local real estate market. High-end sales are staging a comeback for well-designed product. Developments in Aspen that were hammered to a halt by the same conditions suffered in Snowmass Village are staging or already have made comebacks. The difference between two towns separated by 10 miles would be stunning to us, if we were not so flabbergasted by how it could be occurring.

This idleness is not even the will of the Base Village developer, Related Amalgamated, LLC, or whatever it is they are calling themselves these days to dodge debt, legal liability and responsibility for anything. Believe it or not, they want this project to be finished, too.

So, if everyone involved wants so desperately to have this mistake remedied, why hasn’t it happened? Looking at what has transpired right in front of our eyes, I think there can only be one reasonable conclusion drawn: The developer has no money. They simply can’t do anything with this project except wait for the market to come back to them.

The problem with this strategy is that the plan for this Base Village was drawn up during the most ludicrously hot real estate market the world has seen in a century. It might be another century before it happens again. Granting this group of cash-strapped pretenders another five years of vesting rights is very likely to net us nothing while costing us another decade of nothing. We can’t afford taking that chance. At some point we have to cut the ties that have bound our hands and feet. The better course of action more and more obviously appears to be starting over. Ironically, it might be the most expedient way to finish this.

Things have indeed changed for our community even though Base Village has not. It has become apparent that we need more affordable housing. We must have a significant multi-purpose performing arts center here, if we are ever going to compete for summer tourism with other mountain resorts. We must create a vibrant hub for our town.

There is no reason that we should accept a Base Village development plan today that does not accommodate all that this community needs today. It would be incredibly foolish to simply extend a Base Village blueprint that was drawn up 15 years ago to provide only what our town needed back then.

Base Village has been a disappointment, discouragement, embarrassment, impediment, frustration, eyesore and an overall mess for too long. With its vested development rights on the verge of expiring, we now at long last have an opportunity to bring this project into agreement with what this community needs today, whether it is with this developer or a new one. One thing is for certain: It is no time to suddenly become impatient and compromise.

Roger Marolt hopes that our town will settle for nothing less than what it has always deserved in this “partnership,” now that it has finally regained the upper hand. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com


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