A real estate broker who works with City Hall has conducted an analysis of the Mountain House Lodge bed and breakfast, as officials consider whether to get involved before the property goes to a foreclosure sale.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland contends that if the Mountain House is bought by someone who wants to either convert it into residential property or a more expensive lodge, it would be “another brick in the wall between people coming to Aspen and people having places to stay,” he said.
The 26-room bed and breakfast, with rooms going for around $220 a night in the winter, is among the more affordable properties in town.
The property’s current owners are in foreclosure, with a public trustee’s auction scheduled for March 27 on the steps of the Pitkin County Courthouse.
As of Nov. 5, 2012, the lodge’s owners — Mountain House Partners LLC of Breckenridge — owe Community Banks of Colorado $5.86 million on an $8.54 million loan from 2007. The owners purchased the property in 2007 for $7.98 million.
A new owner could keep the property on the 900 block of East Hopkins Avenue as is, redevelop it into a new lodge, or redevelop it into a single-family home, a duplex or a multi-family condo building.
Aspen City Council is scheduled to meet in executive session on Monday to discuss the findings of Andrew Ernemann, a real estate broker who works with the city, and who analyzed the value of the Mountain House property. There would likely be a policy discussion that would follow in public.
Ireland has advocated for the city to do something, such as potentially securing the property through the foreclosure process and selling it to an operator that would agree to keep running it as a mid-priced lodge. Ireland’s fellow council members, however, sound like they need some convincing.
“I share Mick’s concern that we are possibly losing small lodges to free-market residential, but that doesn’t mean the best solution is to stick taxpayers” with the large potential unknown cost of outbidding others who would convert the property into a more lucrative use, said Councilman Adam Frisch. He added that his “preference obviously is to keep it as a hotel/lodge.”
Councilman Steve Skadron said he is torn on the issue. He said he doesn’t have an appetite for the city to get into the lodging business, but if there was a way to partner with the private sector to keep the Mountain House as a lodge, he would be open to the discussion.
“I’m willing to at least explore what’s out there,” he said.
Councilman Torre refrained from saying much on the topic until he had more information, but he said his “general reaction is not favorable.”
“Government should stick to what government does best,” he said. “Real estate brokering is not it.”
Councilman Derek Johnson also said he wants more information, but at first blush, he is not in favor of the city getting involved in the Mountain House.