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Snowmass base area sold to New York company

Scott Condon
Aspen Correspondent
Jordan Curet/The Aspen TimesThe Base Village sale at Snowmass closed on Thursday.
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SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Property at the base of Snowmass ski area was sold Thursday by the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest Corp. to Pat Smith and a New York City company.

Related WestPac announced it finalized the long-anticipated purchase of “Base Village” after six months of studies and wooing lenders. “It’s been a marathon week,” said Smith, president of Related WestPac.

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed and no deeds were recorded with the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder, but sources close to the deal said the property sold for $165 million. Intrawest and the Skico were also paid for the construction that has been completed.

The town of Snowmass Village has approved the construction of 1 million square feet of residential and commercial space at Base Village, including 600 luxury residential units.

The Aspen Skiing Co. will continue to run the ski area.

Construction is underway and the first phase, which features a 26,000 square foot children’s center, will open next winter. The whole project is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

Related WestPac is a joint venture partnership between Smith’s WestPac Investments LLC, and the Related Companies. WestPac is a privately held development company that operates in five western states. Smith’s company previously acquired majority interests in the Snowmass Center and parts of the Snowmass Mall, known as West Village.

Related Companies, one of the biggest privately held development firms in the country, became a partner in the Snowmass Center and the mall in separate transactions Thursday. That places about 80 acres of prime development land and essentially all the commercial property in Snowmass Village in the hands of one company.

Snowmass Village Councilman Arnie Mordkin said that could be good and bad. On one hand, development of three major projects can be better coordinated when there is one owner. On the other hand, it creates a monopolistic landlord.

“It’s always of concern when you have one entity controlling everything,” Mordkin said.

Former Snowmass Village mayor Jeff Tippett said the deal didn’t come as a surprise. “Once Related got involved, the question of could Pat Smith come up with the money went away,” he said.

Some Snowmass Village residents welcome the departure of Intrawest. Tippett said the company has a reputation for “penny-pinching.” That became apparent last summer when the company failed to adequately offset the dirt and dust on village roads, he said.

But there are questions about the new company in town.

“Right now, it’s not a question ” we know what we’re getting with the Ski Company and Intrawest,” Tippett said. “With Pat Smith, nobody knows.”

Tippett wants to know, for example, how Related WestPac will manage construction and how its product will turn out.

Base Village was a logical place to start development when Snowmass Ski Area evolved in the 1960s. Instead it is the final piece of the puzzle for the resort. The Aspen Skiing Co. purchased the property in the late 1990s and enlisted Intrawest as a development partner by 2000.

Uncertainty from another sale isn’t a big concern for Snowmass Village Mayor Doug Mercatoris. It’s a given what the Base Village project will be, he said. Any changes must be reviewed by the town council.

Mercatoris saw more advantages than disadvantages to the concentration of ownership of the three commercial areas of the town. “The advantage that consolidated ownership can bring to the table is sequencing, phasing and construction management,” he said.

A concern would be if the landlord drove commercial rents up and “mom and pop” shops out, Mercatoris said. But the buzz in town is Smith’s organization is working to keep locally-owned business in operation, he said.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.


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