Mountain resort projects on the rise after lengthy hiatus
October 24, 2014
DENVER — Big High Country construction projects are emerging from a nearly six-year hibernation.
Investors are freeing the flow of cash. Buyers are stepping up. And in Breckenridge, Vail and the Roaring Fork Valley, large-scale condominium and hotel projects in limbo during the recession finally are sprouting.
From the wealthy enclaves of Aspen to the community-centric Basalt and middle-market affordability of Silverthorne, fractional residences and hotels are under construction for the first time since 2008.
"It feels like we have been asleep for a while, hasn't it?" said Ed Mace, a hotel veteran whose Denver-based Silverwest Hotel Partners is backing an environmentally friendly, 113-room Westin Element hotel in the Willits neighborhood of Basalt and a Hampton Inn in Silverthorne.
The hotel industry is thriving nationwide, with climbing revenues and occupancies. A rush of new projects in Colorado mountain resort towns, which slid into the recession a bit later than most urban areas, are starting to make up for roughly six years of construction silence.
Development is more tempered this time around. Projects seem less glitzy, with the common theme of value evident in each development, whether targeted toward wealthy downtown Aspen buyers or budget-minded travelers.
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The redevelopment of the tired Lionshead Inn in Vail, known as Strata, is one of the biggest construction projects underway in Vail with a mix of wholly owned and timeshare units above street-level commercial space.
The Strata project was approved in 2009, but recession-triggered delays stalled construction until earlier this year.
The under-construction slopeside Grand Colorado on Peak 8 in Breckenridge is the fourth timeshare lodge by Breckenridge Grand Vacations. With its 114-unit Grand Lodge on Peak 7 nearly sold out, the company with 20,000 buyers since 1985 is developing another 75 residences for shared ownership.
Breckenridge Grand Vacations, a national leader in the timeshare industry, weathered the economic downturn well, the company's marketing chief, Ginny Vietti, said. The company posted about $35 million of sales in 2007 and reached $65 million last year, she said.
The unprecedented decline in resort real estate values from 2009 through 2011 rocked the long-held notion that a Colorado ski resort property was a solid investment.
"The whole ownership proposition became questionable, especially as a lot of people lost a lot of money on slope-side condos," Vietti said. "People are recognizing the value in shared ownership, even with the turn-around in real estate."
Sunrise, with Oaktree Capital Management, pulled the Dancing Bear project in Aspen out of bankruptcy in 2012 and recently acquired a hotel property for another fractional development in the Snowmass Village base area, which has languished with a half-finished base village since 2008.
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