|By Jason Blevins, The Denver Post|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 16, 2004 - Intrawest Corp. is hoping its ambitious redevelopment plans for Aspen's Snowmass Village don't mirror the fate of similar plans at its Copper Mountain resort.
The Canadian company has spent three years working on a new village at Snowmass. However, its effort is being threatened by locals opposed to the scope of the project.
With transportation, employee housing, construction impacts and the general size and density of the proposed new village irking some in the resort community, it's almost certain the project will face a crucial vote in November.
Snowmass' owner, Chicago's prominent Crown family, partnered with Intrawest on the village and vows it will make no revisions to the plan. If voters reject what is proposed, no smaller village will be proposed. And no upgrades or investment on the mountain will occur.
"One of the most painstaking things about this process is how long it has taken," Jim Crown said. "I have full respect for the people of Snowmass wanting to get this right, but it has taken so long and gotten down to such a microscopic level of detail that we are bogging down dangerously, and meanwhile our competition is passing ahead of us."
Crown, whose family has owned the four-resort Aspen Skiing Co. since 1993, has sketched plans for $45 million in upgrades to Snowmass itself. However, he says, those upgrades depend on real estate revenues generated in a new village.
The village redevelopment -- the largest development proposal for Snowmass -- is expected to wend through the final stages of preliminary planning this month. Then, town leaders will vote. A delayed decision by the Town Council could push the project back and delay the expected referendum vote in November.
Crown said any delay would likely kill the entire project.
"If this village does not happen, the improvements to the mountain will not happen," Crown said.
That smacks of a threat, said Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
"Shove it down your throat. Take it or leave it. That's what they are telling us. And they might get away with that because people here are very much worried about the ski area," said Hatfield, who has opposed the size and density of the proposed village since planning began in 2001.
Intrawest's plans for Snowmass narrowly survived a special election vote earlier this year.
Last month, after three years of planning by Intrawest, Summit County leaders rejected the company's proposal to nearly double the size of Copper Mountain's village.
"Intrawest's failure at Copper Mountain should speak for itself when this comes to vote. Their vision is not our vision," Hatfield said.
At issue is Intrawest's well-established formula for success. That formula says a certain number of residential units and a certain amount of commercial space are required to create a bustling village.
The formula has worked at Intrawest's Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia, the continent's most-traveled ski area, and also at the company's villages at Squaw Valley and Mammoth ski areas in California.
At Snowmass, the formula is 635 new residential units and 64,000 square feet of commercial space on top of the town's 3,600 existing residential units.
At Copper Mountain, the village has 1,713 residential units -- with 500 more units approved for construction -- and 177,000 square feet of commercial space.
But that's not working just right, so Intrawest labored over plans to add 1,155 residential units and 150,000 square feet of commercial space to Copper.
Last year, Intrawest bailed on its unlikely nine-year partnership with Vail Resorts at Keystone, giving it more time to focus its Summit County efforts on Copper. But Intrawest's expansive plans for Copper were rejected by Summit County commissioners in a surprise vote in early July.
The proposed village at Snowmass cannot survive any smaller than what has been proposed, Intrawest official Joe Whitehouse said.
"This is the smaller end of the spectrum," Whitehouse said. "I think we are pretty darn close to bare bones to make this work."
-----To see more of The Denver Post, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.denverpost.com.
(c) 2004, The Denver Post. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. IDR,