As we turn the corner into 2017, it’s worth highlighting some good news that’s emerged of late in Aspen/Snowmass. Here are a few stories — about Base Village, the local market, Tesla, and new retail and dining options, that we find interesting.
Base Village Has a New Owner (Hallelujah!)
A joint venture made up of East West Partners, Aspen Skiing Co., and KSL Capital closed on the acquisition of Snowmass Base Village on Dec. 22, for over $56 million.
The sale has been eagerly anticipated since news emerged about the deal in late September, after previous owner Related settled a lawsuit brought by a former development partner, and when a set of agreements tied to last December’s approvals of the Base Village buildout were finalized. New York-based Related, who held the project through the economic downturn and has failed to complete it, was thought to be looking to get out for some time.
East West Partners, based in nearby Vail, is a highly respected real estate development firm that many believe to be the perfect fit for Snowmass. Starting with Beaver Creek in the late 1980s, East West has developed multiple resort projects — its portfolio including resort and urban locations is worth $3 billion — and has been a longtime suitor of Snowmass. It was one of the candidates when Aspen Skiing Co. was seeking partners to develop the base in 2001, then was reportedly interested in buying the project out of foreclosure in 2011. A sale to East West and KSL was announced in October 2015, then terminated two months later. So when the partnership re-emerged to also include Aspen Skiing Co. — who arguably has the biggest stake in seeing Base Village completed — a collective feeling of relief and hope could be felt throughout the community.
The joint venture has acquired all the remaining approved but undeveloped parcels of the nearly 1 million sq ft, mixed-use project, along with the commercial spaces in Base Village, the Viceroy Hotel (including unsold condos in that hotel), and the Snowmass Hospitality property management company.
With East West in charge of day-to-day operations, construction is set to begin in spring 2017, with a focus on the 102-room Snowmass Limelight Hotel (to be sold to Skico upon completion), two partially completed condo buildings at the entrance to the village, and public amenities including a plaza/ice rink and a community building. All told, approximately 55 residences will be added to the village core in the next few years, The Aspen Times reported, with an additional five buildings on tap after that — for a total of around 600 residences and hotel units when Base Village is finally complete.
A Market Upswing to End the Year
Another hip hip hooray for the local real estate market, which elicited much concern throughout 2016 for not performing as well as 2015 — a banner year with dollar volume fueled primarily by record ultra-luxury sales.
We cautioned against proclaiming that the sky was falling as the overall market slowed noticeably in 2016 compared to 2015, and have repeatedly noted that it may be more accurate to compare to 2016 to 2014, which was still a very good year.
In our most recent newsletter, we reported that our 4th quarter is trending toward equaling the activity of the first three quarters combined. Some other bright spots:
Snowmass Village, soon to be fueled by the investment of the East West/SkiCo partnership (see above), has seen a healthy and upward-trending market throughout most of 2016. Real estate transfer tax revenues are up 14% over 2015, reflecting more and higher-dollar sales as buyers resisting Aspen’s climbing prices seek greater value in their investments.
Sales of luxury residences (those over $7.5 million) may be down from 2015, but they’re still strong. 2016 will likely add up to being the third or fourth best year ever for this segment.
In Aspen, prices per square foot continue to rise, even as sales are generally down compared to 2015 (though the slowdown has eased in the latter months of 2016). There’s simply less in the lower price ranges available, and sellers still have confidence. We’ll have to see what the first few months of 2017 brings to discern any longer term trends.
Please visit the publications page of our website for the full current market report and other analyses. (Year-end numbers are due out in the first half of January 2017.)
Tesla’s In Town
A Tesla showroom opened in downtown Aspen just before the holidays, offering a fantastic opportunity to take that next step in going green by purchasing an electric vehicle.
Located on the Cooper Avenue Mall next to the Red Onion, the Tesla store is staffed with specialists who can answer answer questions, clear misconceptions, and generally give plenty of insight about electric cars. Vehicles are available to test drive locally, including the Model X SUV, which is perfectly suited to Aspen conditions with nifty features including ride-height adjustment, fog light options, traction control, a large panoramic windshield, plenty of cargo space front and rear (because there’s no engine in the front), recharging when going downhill, and those Back-to-the-Future-esque falcon wing doors that not only look so cool but allow easy access to the second and third row seats from even the tightest parking spaces.
If you catch the Tesla bug (it is contagious, be forewarned), an owner advisor can help you custom design a vehicle right there in the showroom, or you can order online on your own, with home delivery available.
Even as the range of electric vehicles gets longer and longer (the Model X has a 289-mile range), the number of electric car-charging stations keeps growing. There are currently 14 charging stations from Aspen to Basalt, and a continuously expanding network across the state and country (visit PlugShare.com or Tesla’s map of plug-in locations), ensuring that no electric car road trip should be curtailed for fear of not being able to find a charge.
Tesla has a service center in Denver, and opened a showroom in Vail at the same time as in Aspen. It’s clear that as the carmaker expands its presence nationwide, it’s not just in the urban areas, but towns and resorts like ours that embrace efforts toward a greener lifestyle.
In other retail news:
Aspen Sojourner magazine reports that six new boutiques have opened their doors in downtown Aspen. They are: Kith, 430 E. Cooper; Kathryn Penn Fine Jewelry, 431 E. Hopkins; Odd Molly, 613 E. Cooper; Etc… Aspen, 456 E. Hopkins; Valentina Kova, 208 S. Mill; and Aspen at The Little Nell, which Sojo calls “the chicest hotel lobby gift shop in town.”
The Tastiest Tidbits
39 Degrees, the hip lounge and eatery in the Sky Hotel, has once again come out with a new menu for the winter. Inspired by Executive Chef Shawn Lawrence’s Asian travels and refined each season, this might just be the best menu yet.
New items on the sharables menu include an absolutely divine crispy duck leg confit (that means cooked slowly in its own fat, mmm!) with pickled vegetables, hoisin, and Chinese mustard. It’s served with steamed buns — to make your own mini sandwiches — but the truth is the flavorful duck stands well on its own. There’s also pork belly tacos, Asian style with caramelized kim chi, hoisin and siracha, and a refreshing peanut cabbage slaw. The crab spring roll wraps are served nontraditionally with the insides on the outside, providing a lovely contrast of flavors in every bite, and light, tasty wonton chips are accompanied by a spicy chili cheese dip.
The menu, which retains many favorite dishes as well, also includes soups, salads, sandwiches, and large plates — on the latter is a heartwarming Colorado lamb shepherd’s pie with curried mashed potatoes.
Also new on the dining scene:
Shlomo’s, a legendary Aspen eatery, returns to the base of Aspen Mountain. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the Residences at Little Nell space that has seen a disappointing cycle of short-lived, high-end restaurants, this casual eatery resurrected by longtime local Shlomo Ben-Hamoo features American and Mediterranean cuisine, deli items, and even a breakfast delivery service to the gondola loading area.
Snowmass offers two new culinary experiences. Wildly popular Slow Groovin’ BBQ, whose location in tiny Marble sees a steady stream of valley traffic in the summer, and which has a very successful catering operation, opened in the old Mountain Dragon space on the upper Snowmass Mall. Replacing the Turks nightclub, it retains almost-daily live music (handled by Turks owner Tim Lucca, a longtime fixture in the local music industry) and a wide selection of on-tap beers. Also new is Saké, a sushi bar and Pan Asian eatery in Base Village in the space formerly occupied by Bia Hoi. It’s owned and operated by a partnership of existing Snowmass restaurateurs from Slice, Base Camp Bar & Grill, and Little Mammoth.
Finally, one can get Indian food in Aspen, at the St. Regis’ Trecento Quindici Decano. A new executive chef, Indian-raised Samir Roonwal, brings to the restaurant, now called The Portal @ TQD, a brand new menu that includes many internationally inspired dishes.