Developer to city of Aspen: $150M in tax revenue to come in if base of mountain is redeveloped
More than $150 million in tax revenue would come into the city of Aspen over the next three decades if Lift One Lodge is approved at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side, the developer of the project estimates.
That potential economic boon to the resort community is not something that elected officials should overlook when considering cost sharing in a public-private partnership with the development team, developer Michael Brown said last week.
He will make that case tonight during what will be the fourth public review of the Lift One Corridor project. Brown said he hopes elected officials will see the long game for the community in the proposal.
“The city should look at it as what’s in it for them,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-generation project.”
The project includes two new lodging properties: the Lift One Lodge and the Gorsuch Haus. Combined, they would provide 185 new lodge keys, including 104 in the Lift One Lodge timeshare project and 81 in Gorsuch Haus as a traditional hotel.
It also brings the terminal of a new Telemix chairlift down to Dean Street and provides 11,000 square feet of community space in a refurbished and relocated Skiers Chalet Lodge, which would house a ski museum operated by the Aspen Historical Society. That building also would house skier and ticketing services and ski patrol facilities.
Developers are asking the city to invest in the project by reallocating 80 percent of the project’s development fees, estimated at $3.6 million, to pay for the ski museum.
The city also is being asked to kick in $760,000 for improvements to Dean Street.
The municipal government also would be responsible for between $1 million and $1.5 million to develop two public parks in the corridor.
At last week’s public hearing, some council members balked at the idea that public dollars would go toward a project where private developers would be making what electeds believe is a handsome profit.
Other elected officials, however, felt that some public-private partnership is appropriate.
The spirited discussion prompted Brown’s team to crunch the numbers to show the benefits of economic development.
“I think the city should consider the merits of the projects and what they do for the importance of skiing, the restoration of these historical assets and World Cup racing and also what it means for the city economically,” Brown said. “Our point is, it’s a major economic win for the city.”
Brown’s team used an average of a timeshare unit or one of six free-market condos in the project selling every seven years to come up with its $150 million tax benefit estimate.
That figure includes property and sales tax revenue, as well as real estate transfer taxes (RETT), lodging and use taxes based on the 2017 mill levy and Roaring Fork Transportation Authority mill levy.
The biggest benefactor would be the affordable-housing program, which is funded by the RETT. Brown’s team estimates that over 30 years, Lift One Lodge alone will generate $35.7 million, or the equivalent of housing 150 full-time employees.
The city’s general fund would receive $7.1 million; open space and parks, $6.1 million; and the local transit system, $10.7 million.
Brown said residents over the years have approved these taxes because they realize the benefit to the resort community.
“It’s a great system for the community,” he said, adding that those estimates don’t include general economic activity from guests who would go to dinner, shop and ski. “It’s benefiting the town over and over again.”
Cost sharing is expected to be the big topic of discussion at tonight’s council meeting, which begins at 5 in the basement of City Hall.
Council will continue the public hearing until Jan. 7 to hash out final details of the entire corridor plan, which has been three years in the making.
It’s expected that council will vote on an ordinance that would go to a public vote March 5. The deadline to get a question on the ballot is Jan. 14.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.