Marolt: Reading the writing on the unfinished walls

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

Editor’s Note: Like the professional he is, Roger Marolt submitted this edition of “Cluster Phobic” on time, which was before the announcement that a new developer will be completing Base Village.

The good news is that the company taking over the Base Village debacle from Related Amalgamated Etc. Etc., LLC can’t possibly do a worse job at completing the project than their predecessors have. The bad news, of course, is that with yet another change in ownership, we can expect even more delays on top of the agonizing delays toward the completion of this project that we have already endured.

Wait, you haven’t heard the news about the change in ownership in Base Village? The renaissance of the renaissance of Snowmass Village? Well, I haven’t exactly, either. But, I have been reading the writing on the unfinished walls of the Mess at the Mass.

Last week Related bailed out on their management contracts for non-Base Village properties. The same day as that announcement, they punted on third down their agreement with Sunrise Co. to have that development partner finish two structures in the project in the near future. All of this occurring on the brink of having the revitalized master plan getting the preliminary nod from Town Council that pretty much assures whoever finishes Base Village will have plenty of time to do so without much pressure.

If that’s not enough to convince you that we’ve been played for fools once again and that this project is slated to start from scratch once again, then hot off the press assurances from Related’s Craig Monzio ought to be the clincher: “We remain committed to Snowmass Village.”

Monzio will be lucky if he escapes a lawsuit for plagiarism from Intrawest Corporation who somehow avoided a plagiarism lawsuit from Aspen Skiing Co., which originally used the phrase to describe their relationship to the project and this community when they hatched the idea for a million square feet of bare concrete and cinder block storage in the town’s front yard.

If our past can be used to make predictions about the future, hearing the wolf-clothed reassurance from Related’s mouthpiece should indicate a new developer will be announced as early as the end of this year, before Memorial Day at the latest.

We can’t be too angry with Related for pulling this stunt off. I mean, what would you do if you were in possession of a large tract of land that was designed to be developed with a 2005 plan of attack? Remember, that was when money was cheap and real estate was appreciating at double digits every year. Obviously, this project couldn’t even be pulled off then, so what chance does it have now? Base Village is the Hummer of real estate development. It is so outdated and obsolete that you can’t even buy parts to fix it anymore.

Sure, Base Village was a victim of a worldwide economic implosion, but that can’t be used as the excuse for its 10-year stall. Consider that half of downtown Aspen, a mere eight miles away, has been completely rebuilt since the inception of Base Village. Even El Jebel is back on track.

But, we can’t blame Related entirely on this one. It is true that Related has neither the money nor the will to finish what Skico started here. But, what we have given them is ample time to stall while they wait patiently and calculatingly for the real state market to rebound and a new sucker to step up and take over for them. I think looking back we will see that the single biggest mistake we made was to extend Related’s vesting rights after they failed to make any progress after 10 years on their original deal with us. What were we thinking?

Had we allowed the 10-year vesting rights to expire this year, we would have forced Related into immediate action. My guess is that action would have been to quickly fire-sale portions of Base Village off to a dozen different developers who could immediately begin work on their manageable and economically feasible portions of this project.

Think of it. We could now have Base Village moving toward completion by enough different property owners that we would no longer be beholden to one developer who basically owns us. It was our chance for diversity in design. It was our chance for variety in ideas to bring vibrancy to the Village. It was our chance to get the mastodon out of the living room.

Oh well, it’s not like we’re not used to missing opportunity in Snowmass Village. Like I said in the beginning, though, at least the new developer of Base Village can’t be any worse than the others we’ve had.

Roger Marolt can’t wait to find out who the next sucker to take over Base Village is going to be.