When is a hotel a condo project?
SNOWMASS – When is a hotel not a hotel?When it looks, smells and breathes like a condominium, has no lock-off rooms and includes full size kitchens, believes Town Councilman Arnie Mordkin.This week, Mordkin pulled his support for the Intrawest/Skico Base Village project because he said the flagship hotel is actually a condominium project in disguise.Mordkin stood alone among other council members in his objections, saying that he had been misled as to the project’s scope and could not support a 106-foot building if the only purpose for its excess girth was to sell large condominium units.”I looked at myself in the mirror and said, you know what, I have lied,” he said. “I told people it’s a project of hotel rooms and condos. It’s not just condos. Now, I no longer believe that. It’s a project of condos that has, on some of them, a Westin flag. That’s not what I reviewed.”Aspen Skiing Co. managing partner Jim Crown offered to ensure that a branded, four-star hotel is signed on before any building permits are pulled.”Mr. Councilman, I think we can help you with your moral dilemma,” said Crown, who was flanked at times during the council meeting by Intrawest’s Gary Raymond, Skico CEO Pat O’Donnell and Senior VP David Perry. “Some of our problem seems to be with terminology. I believe the entire building functions as a hotel. The only distinction is some are branded Westin and some are branded Little Nell. Every room will be available as a hotel room.”He went on to say that “the entire design is guest-driven,” and that kitchen-less units would be unfair to guests intent on serving their families breakfast in the mornings or hot cocoa before bed.Crown then went on to explain how the project would be financed, saying that a condo-hotel “shifts some of the risk to the owners,” who typically use the units 21 days a year and are encouraged to put them into the rental pool the rest of the time.”This town will not get a traditional hotel” because of the seasonality, said Intrawest’s Raymond. That opinion was seconded by Councilman Doug “Merc” Mercatoris, who also said, “I would not approve a building of this height and dimensions if I did not believe it was a hotel product.”Crown also told the council that banks aren’t willing to offer traditional financing to hotels anymore, and cited a condo-tel project in Chicago as a case-in-point.Hotel market exists over the hillThe slopeside Park Hyatt is Beaver Creek’s flagship hotel. Built in 1989, it includes 273 rooms, a full-service spa and health club and three restaurants (with a fourth eatery, the gourmet Vue, open only in winter).Year-round the hotel enjoys an annual occupancy of between 65-73 percent, according to spokeswoman Maryann Yuthas. The seasonal fluctuations of the resort “are something everyone needs to anticipate. So we do a lot of fun, out of the ordinary things to bolster interest and occupancy. We try to be really innovative.”For example, during the May mud season, there was a Colorado beer tasting. A women’s spa weekend, which includes a fashion show, is planned for the end of October and early November will bring a Bordeaux tasting. Also popular are single parent weekends, though grandparents also use this as an opportunity to take a holiday, Yuthas said.She noted that while other Hyatt properties in Breckenridge, and eventually, Aspen, are promoting a time share component, the Beaver Creek Park Hyatt has succeeded as a hotel.Destination Hotels and Resorts has just completed the final piece of a four-year, $20 million renovation on the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa (formerly the Vail Westin). The company is also in the process of taking over the Inn at Squaw Creek at Squaw Valley, another full service hotel.”I don’t think the whole world of skiers or visitors out there are all into staying in one-bedroom condos instead of hotel rooms. That’s certainly contrary to our experience at the Vail Cascade or the Silvertree’s experience here,” said Dave Spence, Vice President of Destination ResortsSnowmass.He went on to add that some banks are financing hotel rooms, citing the Pokolodi and Stonebridge as examples where “you certainly can (get mortgages) on the smaller room sizes.”But he did speak of a new condo-tel project in South Carolina where the manager there admitted that lenders are reticent to finance large-scale projects.
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