A future without Fred
President Barack Obama was still in elementary school when Eagle’s Adam’s Rib saga began.
The year was 1973 and a cease fire was ordered in Vietnam. The Watergate scandal story was gaining traction and Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned his office and pleaded guilty to income tax evasion. “The Godfather” was the top movie of the year.
But the big story in Eagle was that a Saint Louis developer had purchased large land holdings in the Brush Creek Valley.
For the past 42 years, Eagle’s fate has been inextricably tied to the vision of one man — Fred Kummer, the CEO of HBE Corp. and the owner of a substantial swath of properties located in the Brush Creek Valley. That changed last week when Brue Capitol, a limited liability company headquartered in Denver purchased Kummer’s Adam’s Rib holdings including 2,655 total acres of land consisting of an 18-hole championship golf course, a 40,000 square foot clubhouse with pool, tennis court and sport court,16,000 square foot golf maintenance facility, five newer construction speculative homes ranging from 2,838 to 6,405 square feet, five member cottages at 2,260 square feet each, 91 finished residential lots ranging from 3.6 to 9.9 acres each with all the necessary infrastructure for immediate development and a fully operational 1,553 acre ranch which includes future development rights for up to 114 additional residential units.
The purchase price was $21 million.
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In an interview with the Saint Louis Business Journal last week, Kummer said back when he purchased the property in 1974, he envisioned a four season, ski and golf development in the Brush Creek Valley.
“I originally conceived that area when Colorado was red hot and Eagle, Colorado, was billed as boomtown USA,” said Kummer in the Saint Louis Journal report. However, he noted that the market subsequently dissipated for the project. “It’s fallen worse than oil … I put a lot of money into it, and I sold it for a little bit of money,” said Kummer in the story. “At my age, I had decided that I played around with the toy long enough — that’s an expensive toy, $100 million, so I disposed of it.”
Last Friday, four decades of scrappy community debate ended and a now a new future awaits for the Brush Creek Valley.
It is a bit of irony that the Brush Creek Valley has been preserved from development because a developer owned it. While the Adam’s Rib Ranch/Adam’s Mountain Country Club has been operating since 2008, that project represents a tiny fraction of the development density Kummer originally envisioned in the valley. With new owners involved, development efforts will resurface.
As the Brue Capitol Debt Offering Executive Summary noted, “Due to the size and nature of the property, multiple options exist for the disposition of certain portions of the property (such as the ranchland) early in the execution phase to significantly reduce the basis for the remainder of the property providing greater flexibility for maximizing returns while also allowing for further price reductions if necessary.”
The summary predicts exploration of each part of the property with sales of some portions.
“It is not the intent of Brue Capital Partners to go vertical with any new construction at this time; however it is possible that BCP could engage local area custom home builders to begin speculative construction on a few of the residential lots, at their risk.”
“I had a very good introductory meeting with Chad Brue and his team on the Monday after the Friday afternoon closing on the Adams Rib properties,” said Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney. “The fact that meeting with the town was part of their first ‘work day’ as property owners after meeting with the staff at Adam’s Mountain Country Club says a great deal.”
Dan Bennett or Brue Capital confirmed the sale occurred last Friday and said the company is working on a press release announcement, however the announcement was not available by the Free Enterprise deadline.
“Chad expressed clearly their team’s desire to start a different kind of relationship with the community,” Stavney said. “The team is clearly excited about the investment and the possibilities, and do not have a pre-determined outcome they desire from a land use stand point. It certainly marks a new era.”
But it is still Eagle — a community that gets scrappy when development plans are presented.
Four decade debate
During the past four decades, Adam’s Rib generated hundreds of letters to the editor, swallowed up thousands of hours of government review and spawned countless community debates. Almost as soon as Kummer revealed his plans for a recreation development, a group of citizens formed to oppose the plan. For more than 20 years, Kummer and the Concerned Citizens of Eagle County battled it out in public hearings and in the courts.
Former Eagle Mayor Roxie Deane was one of the founding members of the Concerned Citizens. “There was a group of people in Eagle who didn’t want to see a ski area the size of Beaver Creek in the valley,” she said. “A ski area up there would be so isolated and off the beaten track.”
The ski area debate raged for much of the 1970s and 1980s and then-Gov. Richard Lamm even weighed in against the plan. By the late 1990s, Kummer’s focus had shifted to propose a series of golf courses in the main Brush Creek valley along with mor than 1,600 residential units.
The plans for the ski area died forever in 2000 when Kummer agreed to sell his 1,782 acre East and West Brush Creek holdings to Colorado State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service. The purchase price was $17 million and the land was paid for by a consortium that included the USFS, the state of Colorado, Eagle County and the town of Eagle. Today, most of that land comprises Sylvan Lake Sate Park.
“I really believe that is what the land was meant to be,” said Deane. “There were some positive things that happened as a result of Fred owning that land and Sylvan Lake State Park was the biggest one. Now all of us can look up Brush Creek and be proud of what is there.”
Adam’s Rib Ranch/Adam’s Mountain Country Club
After the 2000 deal, Kummer still envisioned a large project for his remaining properties — a gated golf and equestrian resort community.
“We have learned many lessons from the growth of Vail, Beaver Creek and Aspen over the years, realizing it was smart to appeal to the untapped market of people who desire open space and a return to nature instead of continuing the trend toward small lots in more congested areas,” said Kummer back in 2007. The man who once fought tooth and nail for large density numbers said he wanted to create a vastly different vision.
“I always wanted to create an environment that would capture the spirit and lifestyle of the local residents,” said Kummer in that same 2007 interview. “After 25 years, Adams Rib Ranch, home of the Adam’s Mountain Country Club, has proved the perfect project for the Brush Creek area.”
Then the Great Recession hit and the Adam’s Rib plan no longer fit in a vastly changed economic reality.
“The current owner has invested over $100 million into the property since the 70’s and has simply overpriced every aspect of the project for today’s market conditions,” noted the Brue Capitol summary. “With an acquisition price at cents on the dollar of the current owner’s invested capital, BCP will be able to take advantage of a reduced basis, allowing for a reduction of pricing across the board (residential lots, golf membership, and ranchland).”