Telluride’s Hotel Capella bought out

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – The Hotel Capella Telluride is no more. Opened just two years ago, with service levels and other quality in the same league as all the continent’s best hotels, it has been rechristened the Hotel Madeline Telluride.

How long it will remain that is anybody’s guess. The $200 million property had a note of $156 million – and the developer needed to sell real estate in the project condo-hotel to pay the construction debt. He sold none, which by October was enough of a problem that the lender initiated foreclosure proceedings.

The primary lender is Swedbank, the leading bank in Sweden, which got involved after Lehman brothers tail-spinned into oblivion at the start of the Great Recession.The Telluride Watch explains that that the new name pays homage to Sweden’s Princess Madeline.

In January, it was widely rumored that the hotel would close as of February, because of continued financial difficulties. Now, it looks like the hotel is here to stay – at least through ski season.

But two other high-end properties that had been planned in Mountain Village never got off the ground. The parcel of land where a Rosewood hotel was planned has now fallen into foreclosure for the second time in two years. The first developer, New York’s Aaron Honigman, couldn’t repay a $50 million bridge loan to begin construction on the property two years ago.

So, the junior lender, Ramsfield Hospitality Finance, ended up owning the land. But little got done there, save for some condominiums that sold at far less than the prices being paid in 2007.

“The market is very difficult right now,” said Richard Mandel, president of Manhattan-based Ramsfield Hospitality Finance. “The land isn’t worth as much as it used to be worth.”

Bank of America, the senior lender, could end up owning the land if no one bids.The Telluride Daily Planet said the price will start at just more than $25 million.

Meanwhile, in Utah, bankruptcy of Premier Resorts International, known also as Deer Valley Lodging, is likely to wrap up this year. The company went into bankruptcy in May 2009.

In court filings, reportsThe Park Record, the company estimated debts of $13 million to tax authorities, former employees, vendors and condominium owners who never received their share of winter revenue. It said it has assets of $725,000.

Danny Kelley, an attorney for the bankruptcy trustee, told the newspaper that the trustee is coming to the conclusion that the money had been sent to a resort in South Carolina to fund operations and losses.

Aspen experiencing ‘sober’ recovery

ASPEN – Mirroring reports from other mountain valleys and, indeed, much of the United States,The Aspen Times reports signs of an improved economy. But one architect says he refuses to string together “cautious” and “optimism” into the same sequence.

“We’re cautious as hell,” said John Cottle, a partner in Cottle Carr Yaw Architects, a firm with roots 40 years deep in the Roaring Fork Valley, where Aspen is located. “It’s still a very sober environment out there.”

Construction remains down, of course, even if the sale of high-end homes began accelerating in 2010, particularly late in the year. Prices are down 30 to 50 percent from their pre-recession euphoria. As elsewhere, activity has picked up most quickly in Aspen itself, with less friskiness in outlying communities such as Basalt and Carbondale.

Tourism, of course, survived the recession much better. But even as occupancy rates pick up, rates continue to decline. One firm that rents luxury condominiums in Aspen told the newspaper that occupancy levels have increased more than 10 percent this year, but the average daily room is down. “They know, like we do, that there’s room at the inn,” said Chuck Frias, co-owner of the firm, Frias Properties.

But as has been the case almost everywhere, December had a much greater bustle. Some of that bustle was in evident in the local buses, operated by Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

While 2010 altogether had the fewest riders since 2004,

December ridership was up substantially. “We appear to have reached the bottom, and we’ve started to come back up,” said Dan Blankenship, chief executive.

Evidence surfaces on Whistler accident

WHISTLER, B.C. – A year ago Sunday, on the first day of the Winter Olympics, a luge racer from the Republic of Georgia shot off the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre, hit an unpadded steel pole and died soon after.

In his new book,Patriot Hearts, John Furlong, the president and chief executive of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, wrote that the death came as a surprise.

“In the build-up to the games, we had developed protocols for just about every crisis scenario you could think of. We had confronted make-believe plane crashes, riots, major injuries, mustard gas – you name it, and we had prepared for it. But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine the death of an athlete on opening day.”

But new e-mails obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., and detailed by Whistler’sPique Newsmagazine, suggest that Furlong and other Olympic officials knew of concerns about track speeds that were substantially higher than projected during the design and construction.

In an e-mail responding to concerns from the International Luge Federation, Furlong wrote: “(E)mbedded in this note (cryptic as it may be) is a warning that the track is in their view too fast and someone could get badly hurt. An athlete gets badly injured or worse and I think the case could be made we were warned and did nothing.”

Several changes in the track were suggested, only some of which were made. And most international organizations still considered the track safe, notesPique, and no athletes or equipment was thrown clear of the track in any of the crashes that did occur prior to the fatality.

Ketchum gets ahead of green curve

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum and Blaine County are considering whether to elevate the requirements for buildings to ensure they use less energy and other resources.

Such regulations have tended to be controversial, because they usually raise building costs. But improved building techniques and designs also lower utility costs.

Checking in at a few places with prior experience in such matters, theIdaho Mountain Express reports no clear consensus. One of the problems seems to be the word “green.” Many contractors hear that and want nothing to do with it. And in Clark County, Wash., located north of Portland, that protest was enough to quash a mandatory code.

Aspen had the same problem, the chief building official there said, and so replaced “green” with “efficiency.”

“How could they be against efficient buildings,” asked Stephen Kanipe, the building official.

In Colorado, a building official in Longmont said elevated building requirements really shouldn’t be controversial. “It’s pretty easy stuff that should be done anyway, such as no leaks in ducts and no gaps in insulation,” said Chris Allison.

Ketchum’s Green Building Team leans toward recommendation that the city adopt the National Green Building Standard, which requires improved insulation and other building techniques, but does not require renewable energy, such as solar collectors.

“The goal is to take Ketchum from behind the curve to slightly ahead of the curve, but not so much ahead that we quash construction,” he said.

Gunnison ranchers back drilling

GUNNISON – Much has been made about the potential damages of drilling for natural gas. But a recent hearing in Gunnison County featured ranchers, who warned against adopting regulations that were too stringent.

The ranchers said that the income of natural gas drilling on their property provided them a badly needed financial cushion, reports theCrested Butte News. The ranchers were from the same county, but over Kebler Pass, in the Paonia area.

“We want to have a future as a family and keep these ranches in open space where wildlife is plentiful,” said one speaker, Gary Volk, the patriarch of a ranch that has been in his family for 100 years.

“Now we have an income source that can help us maintain that into the next generation, and I encourage you to be careful about over-regulating this industry.”

– Allen Best

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows