The White River National Forest is ready to move forward with the sales process for a portion of its Aspen West End property, in order to finance a redevelopment of the aging visitor center at the S-curves.
Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams published a notice last week approving the conveyance of an acre at the northwest corner of the 3-acre property. The for-sale portion would be split into five lots of about 6,000 square feet, each suitable for single-family homes.
“I’m finally in the real estate business,” Fitzwilliams joked.
The notice, published April 11, kicks off a 45-day period during which the Forest Service’s decision to sell the property can be appealed to officials in Washington D.C. If no appeal is filed, Fitzwilliams said he hopes the marketing and sale of the property, conducted through the Government Services Administration, will go forward this summer.
A Forest Service press release issued Thursday said the Aspen property is the No. 1 priority for the White River National Forest’s conveyance program.
The Forest Service hasn’t settled on the method it will use to sell the property, Fitzwilliams said, although an online or live auction is being considered. He said White River staff is looking to other instances where the Forest Service has sold property in high-end real estate markets, such as Sedona, Ariz., and the Lake Tahoe region in California and Nevada, for ideas.
“We know it will be a competitive process,” he said. Fitzwilliams also noted that the Forest Service will be under no obligation to go through with the sale if it feels the offers it gets are too low.
The Forest Service is planning a redevelopment of its offices, visitor center and employee housing on the remaining 2 acres of the property, and is counting on the sales proceeds to finance the project.
“Many of our administrative facilities and housing are in horrendous condition,” Fitzwilliams said in the press release. “This program is essential for funding the reconstruction of our facilities and housing.”
Added to revenues from other properties that will be offered for sale in the Roaring Fork Valley, Fitzwilliams said he hopes there will be funds left over for additional forest needs.
The Forest Service has considered engaging the services of a local real estate broker to assist in marketing the property, Fitzwilliams said, but he noted that doing so would require the government agency to go through a competitive bid process. It would be hard to choose from the many able local brokers that might apply, he said.
The Forest Service could pay a commission to a buyer’s agent when a transaction takes place, he said, although what that commission would be hasn’t been set.
When the Forest Service first floated the idea of selling off part of its Aspen property, it went through a public comment process. Fourteen submissions were received. Some of those expressed concern about impacts on density, traffic and views that may result from the sale. However, Fitzwilliams found that the sales configuration and resulting impacts were in line with the surrounding neighborhood context.
The Forest Service has done some market analysis on the property, but is keeping those results close to the vest.
Vacant lots in the neighborhood have sold for $2 million or more, a figure Fitzwilliams said he would be pleased with.
Allowed home sizes on the lots would be in the 3,200- to 3,600-sqaure-foot range, according to the city of Aspen.