Snowmass community optimistic about future of Westin, Wildwood properties
Building facelift spells good news for shops and community, tenant says
Two longtime Snowmass Mall properties will get a facelift in 2021: renovations slated for the recently sold Westin Snowmass Resort and Wildwood Snowmass will revamp the properties under new ownership and management.
The Westin and Wildwood Properties, as well as the Snowmass Conference Center, sold for nearly $70 million in mid-December. The new ownership structure includes Atlanta-based High Street Real Estate Partners and RGP Partners, an affiliate of Aspen’s Ajax Holdings; Zurich-based ACRON Group is a financial partner, and Davidson Hotels has already taken the management reins, as previously reported.
Another $40 million will go toward the upcoming project to transform the Westin into a four-star property, which will join the Marriott’s Autograph Collection of luxury hotels, according to an announcement from ACRON Group. The Wildwood also will undergo renovations, according to an email from Davidson Hotels Director of Communications Carrie Drost.
Renovations could begin shortly after the ski season, with plans to have most of the work completed by Thanksgiving 2021, said Ajax Holdings Managing Director Karim Souki, who is part of the new ownership structure. Most changes will be to interior spaces, bringing guestrooms and other areas up to date; there will be “no major changes whatsoever,” Souki said.
Souki will be the “boots on the ground” for the ownership structure. And as a longtime Aspen local, he said he feels lucky and excited to be part of a project that will help “finish the story of Snowmass” — a story that has had its starts and stops over years of both development and delays in Base Village.
“We believe in the story of the valley and we believe in Snowmass,” Souki said. “If you really take a 30,000-foot view, Snowmass is what feels like a true ski resort.”
That spells good news for tenants in the Snowmass Mall and the larger community, said Snowmass Sports manager Cameron Wenzel.
“The Westin has been good for the past eight years but moving it up … is definitely going to be a good thing for Snowmass,” Wenzel said. He looks forward to the updates that promise to elevate what he sees as “the best ski-in, ski-out property in Aspen-Snowmass.”
The retailer has been a tenant longer than any other business in the building that houses the Westin, Wenzel said. His father opened the sports shop in 1986 when the hotel was still operating as the Silvertree; the Westin took over in 2012.
“We’ve seen everything … a lot of changes,” Wenzel said. The new ownership and the renovations to come are a welcome change, he said; having an Aspenite like Souki as part of the new ownership structure is a particular plus.
“We hope to form a good relationship with the new owners,” he said. Wenzel hopes the elevated profile will bring more repeat visitors to Snowmass Village — and, in turn, more repeat customers to the shop. “We want it to be at the top of their list every year, where they have that yearning to return.”
That’s good for business — and good for the local economy, Wenzel said.
“You spend your money here, and your money stays in Snowmass. … Having (the) support of tourists and locals alike really means a lot,” Wenzel said. “It’s going to be a bright future for Snowmass.”
Dwayne Romero agrees: the Romero Group president said the acquisition and upcoming renovations are “a clear, visible sign of confidence” in the present and the future of Snowmass Village. His property management team — which oversees a number of spaces in the Snowmass Mall, among other residences and businesses in Aspen-Snowmass — is “very excited” for the transition, Romero said.
“We think this is a very strong sign, very positive sign of progress and (of the) continued … renovation and redevelopment of Snowmass Village,” Romero said. “That all provides for a very vibrant economy, which leads to a very vibrant town.”
Developers have already met with town officials to discuss plans for “interior renovations and an exterior facelift” that will focus on rooms, amenities and lobby and kitchen areas, said Dave Shinneman, the town’s community development director.
“They talked with us quite a bit upfront on what they could and couldn’t do,” Shinneman said. The community development team will keep an eye on building and construction management plans in the coming months to identify major changes to the buildings, impacts on roads and parking, and construction traffic, Shinneman said; his team also hopes to keep the conference rooms open throughout construction “as much as possible.”
“We’d like to see it be shut down as little as possible,” he said. With COVID-19 restrictions already limiting conventions, Shinneman acknowledged, “now would be a great time” to begin any work that would impact those operations.
The new owners of the building have not yet submitted any permit applications to the Snowmass Village Building Department; Souki said they plan to do so in late January or early February before beginning work in the offseason. Souki predicts that the disruption will be minimal for other tenants of the building and the Snowmass Mall.
Wenzel said Snowmass Sports is prepared to adapt to changes and “roll with it” when renovations begin.
And while the renovations won’t directly alter the buildings Romero manages, the long-term effects will be “complementary” to the success of a number of Snowmass Mall businesses by creating more enjoyable spaces for guests and visitors, he said.
In that regard, Romero is on the same wavelength as the new owners of the hotel properties.
“That’s the same direction and the same business model that we’ve been approaching and pursuing: really improving spaces as they are there, and helping the businesses continue to present themselves and engage with the customers and create really warm, inviting comfortable places and space,” Romero said.
Like Wenzel from Snowmass Sports, Romero is particularly optimistic about a local stakeholder among the new ownership of the property.
“It’s important that you have one of the general partners being a local family with long ties and history with the upper valley — and that’s obviously the Souki family,” Romero said “They understand the local character and culture, and how things generally … get completed around here.”
“They can resonate both with visitors and guests, but also with the local community, so I think that’s an extra plus to this news,” he said.
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