Last Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of this column’s humble beginnings when a letter to the editor of the Snowmass Sun prompted the publisher to make an offer that turned into the weirdness you are now reading. In that first letter/column, I proposed moving the Snowmass Mall businesses to the then-imaginary Base Village. That letter prompted quite a bit of negative reaction, especially among the three mall owners.
One said, “You’re on drugs!” to my face. It was a serious blow to a novice writer without the rhino hide of years of taking crap from people who disagree. But I knew that I had a future if I could piss off so many so well.
My very next column proposed casinos for the empty space left behind from moving the mall. I pointed out that there was nothing of any historical value in Snowmass to lose, and that we had potential whales flying in here every week, affirming the need for unlimited-stakes gambling. I also noted that the small footprint of the Snowmass Mall would make it all too easy to secure and run the riff-raff associated with gambling right on out of town. I even gave a nod to the mob using the line, “If the Mafia gets involved, it will give a whole new meaning to family resort.”
Had the power that be listened to me 17 years ago, the business district of Snowmass would be in one place instead of the dysfunctional trinodal hodge-podge of disassociated commercial space that currently passes as ... whatever. It would have a billion-dollar economy of high-stakes gambling. It would have long ago shed its inferiority complex and moved into the realm of world-class resorts impervious to recession.
You could say that I am truly a masochist as the name of this column implies. I have written this column all these years and no one has ever acted on a word of it. That’s a long time to emulate Sisyphus. Instead of rolling the rock, I have beaten my head against it. But it’s time to try again. Whining won’t change the world, but repetition might.
Snowmass is in need of a sense of place — an actual downtown — and Related is in need of a plan that can get past the Town Council and make money. Truthfully, in this real estate market the old plan of selling $600,000 condos is dead. No bank will loan that modicum of money to anyone. Related needs to sell a super-luxury product to people who don’t need a loan. The people who can write checks for their second homes are the future of what can only be described as a real estate market in the throes of obsolescence.
The last time we went through this it was all about “hot beds.” Hot beds are only possible for low-end real estate, not super luxury, because luxury buyers don’t want or need the unwashed masses renting their condos and sitting on their gold-plated toilets. The council will have to face facts. The Base Village will never be finished as long as the demand is for hot beds. There will have to be trade-offs.
The mall is prime ski-in-ski-out real estate. Since casinos are out, redeveloping the mall as luxury condos is the call. Moving the mall businesses out to make room for the wealthy is the solution and the place for these local business folk is the Base Village.
The other tear down in Related’s quiver is The Snowmass Center. I can’t imagine that it can weather a remodel, as this sow’s ear is nowhere near the silk purse of a world-class resort. But what to do with the necessary business community it houses? Base Village of course. It has room for all of Snowmass Village’s businesses housed in one convenient, seamless shopping experience.
The grocery store could be side by side with Gene Taylor’s. We could stop by the post office and have lunch at the Stew Pot. Instead of the center of town being somewhere in the hallway between the store and pharmacy, Snowmass could have a real centralized downtown area — Piazza Snomasokist, perhaps. Of course, the rents would have to be subsidized into perpetuity to assure that local businesses can thrive.
The trade-off for this downtown full of rent-controlled commercial is the luxury condo market that Related can cash in on. It’s simple. Give Snowmass a real town center for Related’s rights to develop what it thinks will make money. Everyone wins and Snowmass can finally put the Base Village debacle behind us.
This is the 17th anniversary of Snomasokist rolling that rock and beating my head against it. I can’t do 17 more and neither can Snowmass Village.