| VailDaily.com

Gypsum’s Top Notch Logworks opts for employee ownership

On Oct. 14, Gov. Jared Polis recognized Gypsum company Top Notch Logworks among four other businesses for transitioning toward employee ownership. 

“I congratulate these businesses on their transition to employee ownership and am proud to continue our administration’s work to save businesses money and support employee ownership so that everyone can benefit when a business thrives,” Polis said in a press release.

Help from the Colorado Employee Ownership Office and the Employee Ownership Grant is allowing Top Notch Logworks to break free from its original structure. With this assistance, previous owners David Sante and Herman Mendoza prepare to step back and let employees become more substantial company stakeholders on Jan. 1, 2023.

Sante explained how with its various resources dedicated to employee ownership, the state of Colorado made employee ownership seem even more appealing.

Since its establishment in 2020, the Colorado Employee Ownership Office provides programs, funding and incentives like the Employee Ownership Grant for businesses to transition toward the model. Since Polis established the office, 18 businesses switched gears to employee ownership statewide. Top Notch Logworks is thus far the first in Eagle County to plan an employee ownership transition with these resources. 

Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade director of business support Nikki Maloney explained the importance of businesses working with Polis’ Employee Stock Ownership Plan award-winning initiative. 

“When a company transitions to employee ownership, the business benefits from a more engaged workforce, a guaranteed succession plan, and a way to attract and retain top talent,” Maloney said in the release. “Employee-owners generally experience higher wages, access to better benefits, and improved job security.”

Sante explained that this win-win nature of the employee-ownership model is what made the transition so appealing for Top Notch Logworks. 

The Gypsum company has been around since 1999, and Sante said that allowing employees to gain value working there also establishes security for the business. Sante said that if employees are benefitting from working at Top Notch Logworks, the company can continue long-term. After all, if a business continues to work for its employees, employees are more inclined to continue working for the business. 

“There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do to implement (employee ownership), but typically, successful (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) outperform other companies quite a bit,” Sante said. 

While the process of transitioning to employee ownership is not without its challenges, Sante explained that support from the Colorado Employee Ownership Office has been instrumental in making it all work. The resources available to businesses through the Colorado Employee Ownership Office are not just through economic incentives, though. Sante said education on successful employee-ownership business planning is helping Top Notch Logworks make successful strides toward employee ownership.

For example, Sante explained that understanding how to detach himself as a private owner is crucial for Employee Stock Owned Plan success. If a private owner does not manage their company in a way that puts systems in place to train employees to take over the company, Sante said the business won’t succeed under employee ownership. So, he and his partners have learned to continue to empower each of their employees to have ownership capabilities. 

Sante said that empowering employees to succeed is simultaneously equipping one’s business to succeed. He explained that because of this, Top Notch Logworks’ plan to transition to employee ownership seemed like the right thing to do. 

“Our (company) mission statement is to do the right thing, which is very simple,” Sante said. “It’s simple for our clients, it’s simple for our employees to know what to do. If you take that attitude, especially in the construction industry, I feel like you’ll be successful.”

Tree Farm developer’s patience pays off

Patience has paid off for the developer of the midvalley project called the Tree Farm.

Landowner Ace Lane has sold three major portions of his Tree Farm project to developers in Texas and Nebraska for more than $20 million. One of the most lucrative pieces of the project is expected to sell by the end of March.

Lane sunk several years and untold dollars into securing approvals for 340 residences and 135,000 square feet of commercial space, which includes a hotel. All told, the project will add about 514,000 square feet of development to the midvalley. The project is across Highway 82 from Whole Foods in the El Jebel area.

He’s now reaping the rewards.

Here’s a look at the four companies that have purchased lots or have them under contract and what they are building.

The Tree Farm Lofts include 156 free-market rental apartments and 40 price-capped apartments.
Realty Capital Residential/courtesy image

— Realty Capital Residential and Lang Partners, both of Dallas, purchased five lots in the Tree Farm subdivision for $11,650,000, according to a special warranty deed filed with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder. The two companies formed Tree Farm JV LLC to purchase lots E 1-3 and F 1-2 on July 7, 2021.

The companies plan to build 156 free-market rental apartments and 40 price-capped rental apartments. According to the approval from Eagle County, 25 of the price-capped apartments must be priced for households making 80% of area median income while the remaining 15 can be rented to households at 100% AMI. There is no cap on the rents charged for the 156 free-market apartments.

The residences will range from 485 square feet to 1,100 square feet. There is a mix of studios as well as one- and two-bedroom units and co-living arrangements.

The companies announced in January they secured a $54.5 million construction loan from Wintrust Bank’s Denver commercial real estate office. The companies said all apartments would be built at the same time. The anticipated move-in date is July 2024.

The 122-room Hoffman Hotel is proposed at the Tree Farm project in the midvalley.
Bedford Lodging/courtesy image

— Dallas-based hotel development company Bedford Lodging acquired two large lots at the Tree Farm for $3 million in a transaction completed July 13, 2021. Lots D 1-2 were acquired by Tree Farm Holdings LLC, according to a special warranty deed filed with the county clerk. The owner of the lots is now listed as BMM Basalt LLC.

Bedford Lodging has applied to build a 122-room hotel that it announced would be part of the Tapestry by Hilton Collection. The Hoffman Hotel will be four stories and nearly 77,000 square feet. It will be located on the northeast corner of the intersection of Highway 82 and Willits Lane.

In this view of the Tree Farm project, apartments will be constructed on lots E 1-3 and F 1-2 on the right; independent living units will be built on lots D 3-6; a hotel will be built on lots D 1-2; a mix of residential and commercial will be built on the A, B and C lots on the left.
Courtesy image

— A company called Essex Communities, which specializes in independent-living complexes, purchased four lots at the Tree Farm for $5,620,000, according to a special warranty deed filed with the county clerk. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company formed Essex Buligo Roaring Fork LLC to complete the purchase on Feb. 8.

Essex plans to build 72 independent living apartments on lots D 3-6. The independent living will be located between the Hoffman Hotel to the west and the Tree Farm Lofts to the east. All three developments are located between Highway 82 and the existing Kodiak Ski Lake on Lane’s property.

This image shows the proposed The Lakeside — Luxury Lakefront Residences at the midvalley Tree Farm project.
Walt Brown Jr./courtesy image

— Scottsdale, Arizona-based developer Walt Brown Jr. said he is scheduled to close on the purchase of several small lots on the west end of Kodiak Lake by the end of March. The price is currently undisclosed, but it includes some of the most lucrative real estate at the Tree Farm.

Brown Family Holdings plans to develop 14 luxury condominiums on the lots closest to the lake. They will be known as The Lakeside — Luxury Lakefront Residences. The Lakeside buildings will include about 13,550 square feet of commercial space.

Another portion of the project will be known as The Creekside, with additional condos and roughly 38,000 square feet of commercial space.

A final component of Brown’s property will feature 10 price-capped, for-sale units.

— A smaller lot in the Tree Farm was acquired by Tree Farm at Aspen LLC for $1,588,980 on Feb. 25. The lot can accommodate four residential units.

Eagle County officials said building permits for some of the various components of the Tree Farm are under review. As of last week, none had been issued yet but a busy construction season is anticipated in 2022.


Elected officials weigh in on land flip at base of Aspen Mountain

Aspen City Council members on Tuesday expressed their disappointment in the developers who were behind the yet-to-be-built Gorsuch Haus hotel on land they flipped to a Russian billionaire and made a $66 million profit in less than a year’s time.

Norway Island LLC — a partnership including Jim DeFrancia of Lowe’s Development, Jeff Gorsuch and Bryan Peterson — last week sold their 1-acre slope-side parcel at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side to a Miami-based development firm for $76.25 million.

The local group bought the property this past July from Aspen Skiing Co. for $10 million, after campaigning hard in the spring of 2019 to convince voters to approve a roughly 320,000-square-foot commercial development, including their hotel, at the base of Aspen Mountain’s Lift 1A.

Elected officials conveyed during council comments in Tuesday’s regular meeting that they felt it was disingenuous that Gorsuch relied on his family name and their Aspen history to get the Lift One Corridor project approved, which only won by a margin of 26 votes.

“I’d just like to share my personal disappointment in the way the Gorsuch Haus thing turned out,” said Councilman John Doyle, who as a citizen prior to being elected to council campaigned against the project.

Jeff Gorsuch, left, and John Doyle share a moment after a February 2019 forum to debate the Life One plan before the March 2019 election. Doyle, who was against the development and now sits on the Aspen City Council, expressed his disappointment Tuesday night in the recent sale of the land at the center of the redevelopment on Aspen Mountain’s west side.
Anna Stonehouse / Aspen Times archive

Councilman Ward Hauenstein, who was on the majority of council in January of 2019 when he voted to refer to voters that March two ordinances governing the redevelopment, along with a $4.36 million taxpayer subsidy, also expressed his disappointment on Tuesday.

“I also felt a sense of betrayal by what went down with the transfer of ownership with the Gorsuch Haus,” he said. “I don’t think there is anything that this council can do other than to express our feelings on that transfer. I have no idea where the money comes from and there’s no power we have, the City Council, to do anything about it.”

Councilwoman Rachel Richards called the situation “sad.”

“I don’t know if the price is at all commensurate with the potential pro forma of that hotel should it ever be built but it’s a nice safe place to park money,” she said. “I am very disappointed by the people who told our community this was about locals, locals doing local things.

“Now, I would remind myself and all of us that there are community benefits and there are reasons why the community did choose to vote for the redevelopment of that area and there are no changes that come with the purchase price in terms of the land use approval so we’ll be taking a bigger careful view to that.”

Gorsuch did not return a phone message Wednesday seeking comment. In an interview Monday with The Aspen Times, Gorsuch said: “I never said I had $200 million to build a hotel. There is, to me, a responsibility (to build the project), and I feel we made good on that.” He later added, “I was the voice and face of the project. We didn’t betray the public trust.”

Mayor Torre said he said he had an idea for the Gorsuch investors that just cashed in “that perhaps returning some of the community’s $4.36 million of taxpayer money that was put up as part of the development proposal would be a great nod to the community that they’ve been heard.”

The $4.36 million, which is in an escrow account that council voted to put toward the project, will go to public facing amenities like a ski museum, a public park and improvements to Dean Street, where the terminus of a new telemix ski lift will be located.

The Lift One Lodge ordinance notes in section 32 that the funds will be released to Lift One Lodge, the other lodging component of the project, when the chairlift is in working condition.

“The language specifically states that the funds are not being offered for the commercial components but to help fund certain elements that will benefit the public (aka the public facing elements like Lift 1),” said Jen Phelan, the city’s project manager and coordinator of the Lift One Corridor project.

Gorsuch Haus, Lift One Lodge, Aspen Historical Society and Skico all have been participants in the project. The latter three currently remain on board.

Aspen City Holdings LLC was identified on the special warranty deed signifying the sale as the buyer of the land that the Gorsuch Haus hotel is planned for.

The deed shows the LLC’s mailing address to the attention of Miami-based OKO Group, a real estate development firm founded and headed by billionaire Vladislav Doronin.


Outer Range Brewing Co. to open 2nd taproom in France

Outer Range Brewing Co. is opening a second location in Sallanches, France. Construction is set to begin in the spring.
Outer Range Brewing Co./Courtesy image

Frisco’s Outer Range Brewing Co. is expanding once again, this time internationally. Co-founders Emily and Lee Cleghorn announced at their fifth anniversary party Saturday, Jan. 29, that the brewery is opening a second taproom in Sallanches, France.

The Cleghorns picked the spot because of its similarity to Frisco. The new location near Chamonix will have floor-to-ceiling windows for views of Mont Blanc just like how the original Outer Range looks out to Mount Royal.

It isn’t their first foray to Europe, as Lee Cleghorn lived in Belgium when he was a teenager. The brewery has been sending beer to various craft bars out there for about three years, and they participated in roughly 15 European events in 2021. Emily Cleghorn said the pair started looking last summer not knowing how far they’d get, but they unexpectedly ended up securing the new location on that trip.

“Of course, we wanted another mountain location because our whole mission is to perpetuate the mountain lifestyle through craft beer,” Emily Cleghorn said. “What I find really fascinating is that it seems like mountain people are mountain people no matter where they are in the world. We just had such great interactions with the local community there. They’re just like people here, living the simple life.”

Like Frisco, the Sallanches brewery will have a coffee roaster and fried chicken — but of the hot Nashville variety instead of Thai. Restaurateur Chris Schmidt, who they’ve partnered with before for Bird Craft in Frisco and Craftsman 2.0 in Edwards, is not involved with the food.

The second location will also have a large private event space as well as a climbing wall.

The Cleghorns will move to France for the first year or two to help it get off the ground, and then they will split their time between both taprooms. While there probably will be some location-specific exclusive releases, they said brewers and recipes will travel back and forth, too.

“We just figured it would be great to have an apres ski brewery in the place that started apres ski,” Lee Cleghorn said.

Construction starts in the spring for a planned winter opening.

Aspen’s historic Red Onion to open this fall

A woman and her poodle on Thursday walk by The Red Onion, which is hopefully reopening in fall of this year, in downtown Aspen. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The historic Red Onion in downtown Aspen is set to open by Thanksgiving, according to Mark Hunt, the building’s owner.

“It will be a bar,” he said this week, adding it will not be a bougie one. “It will be a better version of itself.”

The Onion, as longtime locals refer to it, serves a symbol of Aspen’s history and vitality, and it has been shuttered since December of 2020 when the operators of the bar and restaurant permanently closed in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.

Hunt had planned to renovate the space and have it open by the fall of last year, but complications with his development next door, formerly known as the Bidwell building, slowed the process down.

It was realized after the city’s approvals for development that the Red Onion kitchen was encroaching on the Bidwell property and needed to be relocated.

Hunt sought and received approval in February 2021 to demolish the Red Onion kitchen and move it to the east onto the property in which it serves, 420 E. Cooper Ave.

A change order application and a subsequent notice of approval to do that work was based on a set of conditions and timelines in an effort by the city to keep the project alive and the Red Onion delivered back to the community.

“No later than four months after the issuance of the building permit for the kitchen relocation, the applicant shall complete the relocation of the Red Onion kitchen, as evidenced by receipt of a letter of completion,” reads the notice of approval. “Failure to meet the timelines approved in this notice of approval will result in the city withholding the issuance of building permits or certificates of occupancy for 434 E. Cooper Ave. until the letter of completion is issued for the Red Onion renovation.”

There have been delays in the rebuilding of 434 E. Cooper Ave. as well, since the prospective tenant and part property owner, RH, formerly known as Restoration Hardware, has made significant changes to the plan.

Regardless, Hunt did not move on the Red Onion at the pace city officials had hoped.

“We were putting pressure on them to open the Red Onion and it didn’t come together,” said Amy Simon, the city’s director of planning. “They didn’t uphold their end of the deal.”

Hunt said when his tenants decided to close the Red Onion, he saw an opportunity to do a full remodel of the restaurant, as well as the two buildings on either side at the same time.

Construction crews work Thursday at the former Bidwell building site near the Red Onion in downtown Aspen. Red Onion is slated to reopen in the fall of this year. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Those buildings are slated to become a jazz performance center owned and operated by Jazz Aspen Snowmass.

The JAS Center was originally scheduled to be open in June of 2021 but with construction delays and the pandemic, those plans are delayed by three years.

“We looked at the buildings and saw an opportunity,” Hunt said. “(The Red Onion building) was not in good shape and we needed to straighten up lot line issues, move the kitchen and do it right.

“The city became aware that these were connected properties and how complicated it all is.”

Required stormwater retention improvements under the properties, mechanical systems on the roof and egress between buildings are some examples of the complexities the developer and the city have been going back and forth on.

Delivering a performance center and a remodeled Red Onion to the community at once, and trying to do construction holistically was a tradeoff Hunt was willing to make.

“We could’ve picked one over the other but there are a lot of moving pieces,” he said. “It is what it is.”

Eventually, Hunt chose to renovate the Red Onion separately from the larger project that includes the JAS Center.

“The city has supported this shift in plans to the extent that re-opening of that long-standing business is a high priority and we hope to see the business open while the JAS project proceeds around it,” Simon said.

That is precisely the plan Hunt and JAS President and CEO Jim Horowitz are operating on.

Hunt said he plans to remodel the buildings surrounding the Red Onion and deliver the unfinished interior space to JAS in the spring of 2023. A building permit application will be filed with the city in the coming days, he added.

An “Evict Mark Hunt” sticker is strategically placed at the top of the door of the Red Onion in downtown Aspen on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

JAS is under contract to purchase the existing second floor of the Red Onion, plus the adjacent spaces and the street level entrance to create the JAS Center.

The 9,000-square-foot space will include a full bar, an elevated stage for performances, a recording, mixing and finishing studio, a terrace overlooking the Cooper Avenue Mall with views of the patron lounge, a photo gallery showcasing the JAS archive from the nonprofit’s past 32 years and more.

Ultimately, it will be a multi-use, multi-purpose space with four functions: A club for listening to live music, a classroom, an event space and a recording studio, Horowitz said.

“It’s a pretty exciting use for the downtown core,” he said. “This is a chance for the town to help ensure this cool building keeps its soul and turns into a gathering place.”

He said his development team has been working with Hunt’s team and plans for buildout are taking shape.

“We have a real sense of momentum about the project,” Horowitz said. “In a perfect world, we will be open by summer of 2024.”

Meanwhile, JAS has been working on what is called a “pace setting” capital campaign, focusing on the organization’s fundraising leaders.

“We have $11 million in pledges,” Horowitz said. “This is unprecedented for us.”

Renovation of the Red Onion includes putting two bathrooms on the first level, and adding booths, new light fixtures and a fireplace.

The construction is scheduled to begin in May and end in September, according to general contractor G.F. Woods Construction as part of the building permit application submitted to the city.

Hunt declined to identify who the new operator will be, but it won’t be former owners Brad Smith and Michael Tierney.

Hunt said he is keenly aware that some people in the community are frustrated their beloved watering hole has been shuttered for so long.

“We missed a season or two of drinking but it will be worth it,” he said. “We are super excited about it and I think the town will be happy with it.”

If the Red Onion opens on Hunt’s timeline, it will be quicker than the turnaround from the previous building owners, Ron Garfield and Andy Hecht, who kept it closed for nearly three years.

The space shuttered in 2007 after a blowout closing party in March of that year, following a couple of years of remodeling and an eventual opening in May of 2010.

New Insights Collective series to examine dynamics impacting resort communities

The Vail Daily, in collaboration with the nonprofit Insights Collective, is introducing in the coming weeks a series looking at the dynamic forces at play disrupting resort communities now and for the foreseeable future.

The nine-part series will address the impact of those forces on mountain tourism-based economies and related considerations, including public-sector policy, private-sector operations, and the full- and part-time residents and consumers who drive the local economic engine.

Scheduled to launch Jan. 27 in print and online, the series is being researched and written by members of the Insights Collective, a think tank of destination travel veterans. Their mission is to provide strategic thought, planning and guidance toward bettering destination travel economies focused on resort towns, said Collective founder Ralf Garrison.

The Collective uses data analysis, think tank decision-making, and scenario planning to 1) gather such facts and evidence as is available, 2) aggregate emerging best practices from others, and 3) provide insights and food for thought to resort-community leadership and inform the constituents who they represent.

“This series, our third since the pandemic began, is being launched at the onset of the third year of this global pandemic, amid the ongoing consequences of viral mutations, new record cases and hospitalizations. The focus is on both the continuing and emerging reality of disruptors to short and long-term stability and sustainability in mountain destinations,” Collective president Tom Foley said. “Further complicating this understanding are the broader economic and social forces that are driving record visitation and immigration at a time when resort capacities, staffing and housing are both under pressure.”

Insights Collective’s objective is to provide a fact-based, apolitical perspective and share insights and case studies from others, Garrison said. The series aims to help make sense of the situation and offer a credible voice to residents and private-public sector representatives as they plan and navigate their way through a third year of unprecedented disruption, and to cope with the political and social ramifications upon which the future is dependent, he said.

For more information on the not-for-profit group, go to TheInsightsCollective.com or email them at info@theinsightscollective.com.

Limiting lift tickets at ski areas could be the new normal as overcrowding becomes pervasive

A skier makes his way down the High Noon run at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on opening day Oct. 17, 2021. A-Basin is the only ski area in Summit County that limits its season pass sales, though officials declined to disclose that number.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

Back in November, Vail Resorts announced in a news release that due to the increased demand on winter travel this year, its resorts would be limiting the amount of lift ticket sales during certain holiday periods.

The hope was that by limiting sales during peak periods, ski areas would see improved efficiency and an enhanced mountain experience for guests.

In the release, Vail Resorts stated that it was targeting three major holiday periods, including Christmas and New Year’s Day from Dec. 25 to Jan. 2, Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend from Jan. 14-17 and Presidents Day weekend from Feb. 18-27.

Though Vail Resorts promised to limit lift ticket sales, the major resort operator also sold a record number of Epic Passes this year, totaling 2.1 million passes.

Vail Resorts spokespeople did not respond to questions about how limiting lift ticket sales went during the first holiday period of the season.

Other Summit ski areas have also worked to limit how many people are on the mountain in order to enhance their own mountain experience.

One such resort is Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which is no stranger to limiting lift tickets and season passes, a principle it employs throughout the season rather than only during busy holiday periods.

“We limit season passes, and we limit daily tickets, so we often sell out of daily tickets available for sale on busy Saturdays,” A-Basin Director of Marketing Jesse True said.

No one wants to drive, wait in traffic on Interstate 70 and then wait in more massive lines at a ski area, True said.

A-Basin limits its daily lift ticket sales online, so once the allotted amount of lift tickets have been sold for a day, then that day is no longer available as an option for skiers or riders who want to purchase a ticket. True declined to say what that limit is.

There are ticket windows on-site at A-Basin, but they are used only for redeeming products that have already been purchased online.

“We realized that our culture and vibe is really more about skiing,” True said. “We really strive to limit the amount of people that are here on any given day or have access to be here on any given day so that the day is more about the experience out on the hill than in a big lift line.”

A-Basin also limits the amount of season passes it sells — something Vail Resorts does not do — in order to prevent overcrowding on the mountain.

Working in the ski industry, True said he is concerned about the direction many ski areas seem to be headed, where overcrowding is the norm.

“I don’t want the narrative for this industry to only be sales that have exceeded capacity,” True said. “I want the narrative to be that skiing isn’t broke. The soul of this sport still exists at places like the Basin and others, too.”

Silverthorne resident opens immigration law firm after sponsoring Haitian boy on a school visa

Jonas Thermitus, from left, stands with the Ohayon family — including Stéphane, Eleeana, Maxeme and Jaci — in their home in Silverthorne on Monday, Dec. 20. The family took Jonas in after meeting him in the Dominican Republic in 2017 and set him up with a student visa so he could move to the United States.
Jaci Ohayon/Courtesy photo

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct where the Ohayons lived during their first stint in Summit County and when they moved back as well as the spelling of a name.

In 2018, Jaci Ohayon and her family, who formerly lived in Silverthorne, helped sponsor a Haitian boy named Jonas Thermitus so he could move to the United States. The Ohayon family met him while on a trip to the Dominican Republic, and with his mother’s blessing, they helped him secure a school visa so he could attend The Peak School in Frisco.

Today, Thermitus is still attending school in the United States, and Ohayon is opening a brick-and-mortar immigration law office in Frisco.

Ohayon has 15 years of experience as an immigration lawyer, but at the time of meeting Thermitus, she was on a leave of absence. She had just lost a particularly difficult asylum case and was questioning whether the line of work was meant for her.

“You really give them your heart and your soul when you work so intimately with a client, especially when a client can often be hopeless,” Ohayon said. “To try to channel that hope and keep it alive and work so hard — to get to the point where a judge doesn’t believe your client is heartbreaking.”

Ohayon said she’s had a passion for immigration law since she was in school. Her husband is an immigrant, and she said she feels strongly about giving people a voice and the tools they need to be successful in the U.S.

After meeting Thermitus, and during the effort to sponsor him and get him a school visa, she felt reinvigorated and began practicing again in 2018, the same year Thermitus arrived in Summit County.

When he moved in 2018, Thermitus started suffering from severe symptoms of living at a high elevation. The family moved from Summit County to a lower elevation in Vermont, but Ohayon said they had trouble finding a school that would accept Thermitus’ visa.

Eventually, Thermitus attended a boarding school near Spokane, Washington. The Ohayon family moved back to Summit County in October 2021. They now live in Silverthorne, and the couple’s two kids attend The Peak School.

During that time, Ohayon continued to practice immigration law, but in December, she decided to merge her practice with a colleague who lives on the East Coast. Together, she and Meagan Neil formed Ohayon Neil Immigration Law.

Ohayon said merging the practices allows the two lawyers to add more brainpower to their caseloads.

“When you’re a solo practitioner, you only have so much capacity, and so picking and choosing cases is extremely necessary because you only have so much time you can spend on each case,” Ohayon said. “So combining firms with Meagan, now there’s two attorneys, so there’s two legal minds on things. We’ve got big plans to expand.”

Ohayon does a little bit of everything with a small emphasis in business immigration law while Neil focuses on family immigration law. The firm’s website states that it also helps with humanitarian immigration, investor visas and citizenship, as well as student, cultural exchange and tourist visas.

Though a good portion of her clients are based outside state lines, Ohayon said she envisions working with local clients, too.

Peter Bakken — executive director of Mountain Dreamers, a Summit County-based nonprofit whose mission is to support local immigrants and their families — said there are a few lawyers providing immigration law services in the county, but there’s still a considerable demand for this work.

“There’s a big need for immigration legal services in Summit County and in the region,” Bakken said. We don’t have the resources up here that exist in the bigger cities or along the Front Range, so as you get into rural areas of Colorado, it’s really difficult to find legal help for immigration matters.”

The new office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays by appointment only. The firm can be reached by visiting its website at ONILawfirm.com or calling 970-680-1223. It’s located at 610 Main Street in Frisco.

Aspen Valley Hospital readies for shifting landscape in 2022

Aspen Valley Hospital executives are expecting a hit to the facility’s bottom line in 2022.

In anticipation of the scheduled March debut of the Vail-based Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute — a 65,000-square-foot, three-story building currently under construction at Willits Town Center in Basalt — hospital officials have forecast a decline of up to 70% in 2022 orthopedic revenue compared with this year’s performance.

“The impact is a $20 million outflow of surgical revenues,” AVH CEO David Ressler said at the Dec. 13 meeting of the hospital’s board of directors, noting this year’s “high-water mark” in orthopedic revenue is tracking 34% ahead of orthopedic revenue generated in 2019.

“It’s a significant impact that we’ve been planning for since we started our partnership discussions with the Steadman Clinic,” Ressler told the board.

Orthopedics are a big driver of AVH’s business, representing nearly 37% of its patient revenue. The emergency department is next at 22.2%, with primary care third at 10.9%, according to the hospital’s financial data.

This pie chart breaks down the patient-revenue sources for Aspen Valley Hospital. (Image courtesy of Aspen Valley Hospital)

AVH entered into a joint partnership with Steadman Clinic on Dec. 1, 2020, and the two entities currently operate an orthopedic center on the hospital’s second floor. That space, known as The Steadman Clinic at Aspen Valley Hospital, will remain open, but the Willits location is expected to be a game-changer for orthopedic offerings in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It will certainly be an attraction to people all over the country,” Ressler told the board.

The project is a collaboration among The Steadman Clinic, Orthopedic Care Partners, Aspen Valley Hospital and Vail Health.

The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute will be located in a three-story building currently under construction in Basalt and scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2022. (Rendering courtesy of The Steadman Clinic)

“When that surgery center generates profit,” Ressler said of the Willits facility in an interview Thursday, “we will receive 25% of our share of the profit.”

The 2022 budget was adopted last week by the hospital’s board of directors and projects total patient revenue of $147.5 million, which would fall $17.1 million short of the $164.6 million projected by the end of this year. After meeting its financial obligations, the hospital expects a net patient service revenue of $99.1 million in 2022, which would stop $9.4 million shy of the projected $108.5 million in 2021.

Total operating revenue is budgeted at $103.3 million for 2022, which is $8.7 million less than the $112 million expected to close out this year.

“This was the most difficult budget that any of us on the executive team can recall ever being involved in,” Ressler told the board last week, “and of course we said that last year as well and it still has topped last year.”

Hospital authorities also are expecting an increase in expenditures in 2022 chiefly because of a 5% across-the-board wage increase totaling $3.1 million, the $15.8 million implementation of Epic medical records software and another $9.9 million budgeted for capital improvements.

“That is going to have a dramatic effect on our budgets … and ultimately our cash reserves,” Ressler told the board of the Epic roll-out.

Patients have been staying longer at AVH — which is a public hospital supported by a voter-approved mil levy that an elected five-member board of directors oversees — as evidenced by a 20.5% increase in the length of stay through October of this year compared with the opening 10 months of 2020, and 31.5% increase from 2019.

While AVH has not grappled with the high volumes of COVID-19 patients seen at other hospitals, those patients “tend to have very long lengths of stay,” explained Ressler to the board, adding that “the practical implications are that we have patients here for a longer period of time, and so that also has contributed to higher length of stay.”

The hospital’s average daily census — which is determined by multiplying the number of annual admissions times the length of stay, and dividing that figure by by 365 — rose 19.1% through October year-to-date over 2020 and was 4.8% higher than 2019.

That is one reason why the hospital is budgeting for three full-time employees in its care units.

“When we put a COVID-positive patient in the ICU, they may not be intensive care-related acuity of a patient,” AVH Chief Operating Officer Elaine Gerson told the board. “They’re put in the ICU to segregate them from our general patient population. Whenever we put a patient in the ICU, it requires two staff resources. One is typically an RN and then depending on the acuity of the patient, it could be a patient-care tech (who) is the second staff or a second RN if the patient is severely ill.”


REI opening Glenwood Springs store next year in former Office Depot space

A storefront rendering of the planned REI Co-op store at the Roaring Fork Marketplace in south Glenwood Springs.
REI Co-op/Courtesy photo

Glenwood Springs is set to become home to the ninth Colorado location for the popular member-owned REI Co-op outdoor specialty store.

The national retailer announced Thursday plans to open the store next summer, featuring apparel and gear for camping, cycling, running, hiking, fitness, climbing and snow sports.

The new store is slated to open at 3216 S. Glen Ave., in a 20,030-square-foot space at the Roaring Fork Marketplace that was formerly occupied by Office Depot, a news release states.

Store amenities are to include a full-service bike and ski shop, gear rentals and online order pickup services, both in-store and curbside.

The Glenwood Springs location is to be staffed with certified bike mechanics, professional ski and snowboard tuning and repairs, and virtual outfitting services.

“We look forward to serving the community and visitors who come to enjoy the hot springs, trails, waterways and endless outdoor opportunities,” Janet Hopkins, REI regional director for the mountain district, said in the release. “REI will also seek partnerships with local outdoor nonprofits to support their efforts in protecting natural places and welcoming more people outside.”

REI opened its first Colorado store in Denver in 1983, and has stores nearby in Grand Junction and Dillon.

Property owner representative Matthew Sanger of Pegasus Realty Corporation said REI’s presence in the south building at the Roaring Fork Marketplace should be a major draw.

“REI Co-op is an ideal addition to the Roaring Fork Marketplace shopping center and the community in general,” Sanger said. “REI’s presence shows the attractiveness of the Glenwood Springs retail market.

“Given the market and who they are as a company, we thought this would be a perfect fit,” he said.

Pegasus is also still looking to fill the 42,000-square-foot space in the same building where American Furniture Warehouse was previously located. With REI on board, that could happen sooner than later, Sanger said.

“We are in discussions with multiple regional and national retailers about that space,” he said, adding it could be leased as one big space or split into two spaces.

Denver Mattress occupies the other major space in the building.

Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said the city has worked on the economic development front to try to attract potential tenants for some of the vacant retail spaces around town.

“This is something that can really revitalize that portion of town,” Godes said of REI. “Anything that can bring increased vitality and vibrancy to the community is something we’re always striving for.”

Godes acknowledged the potential impact on existing outdoor retailers in Glenwood Springs, but noted that they’ve already done a good job of differentiating themselves in the market.

“We’ve also been successful as a community in encouraging people to support local businesses and to shop local, and I don’t anticipate that changing with REI in the market,” Godes said.

REI expects to hire about 50 employees for its Glenwood Springs location, the company also said in its release.

Interested candidates can apply online at REI.com/jobs and a timeline for hiring can be found here. Candidates can set up a job alert on the co-op’s career site to be notified when positions are posted.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.