Aspen Business Luncheon

Dwayne Romero and Jordan Sarick spoke Wednesday at the Aspen Business Luncheon about commercial nodes in Snowmass Village, beyond Base Village, that are picking up momentum.

Completion of the second phase of Base Village captivated the public’s attention for nearly two years, culminating in a Dec. 15 debut of the Limelight Hotel, its adjacent plaza and a pair of commercial buildings.

Meanwhile, two other commercial nodes, the Snowmass Village Mall and the Snowmass Center, have been quietly plotting their own futures, which were shared Wednesday during the Aspen Business Luncheon held at the Mountain Chalet.

“We’re trying to invest in what’s been lost in the mall for the last 25 years,” said Dwayne Romero, CEO of the Romero Group which last year purchased the property from Related Cos. “We want to bring the cool back to the mall.”

Downhill from the mall and across the street from Base Village, the Snowmass Center preliminary PUD application will receive its first public airing on Feb. 19 before the planning commission and town council, according to Jordan Sarick, principal of Eastwood Snowmass Investors LP. His group also owns most of the commercial space at Aspen Highlands, which has evolved from multiple vacancies when Eastwood bought it 11 years ago to its current full occupancy.

“We wanted to create the right soil so the right tenants could plant roots,” Sarick said of the Highlands base.

There’s similar thinking to his plan for the more than 40-year-old Snowmass Center, to make rents sustainable and create the right tenant mix.

The Snowmass Center received sketch plan approval, the first in the three-step approval process, in April 2018. The second step, the preliminary plan which is the most detailed, is included in a document that spans 800 pages and weighs in at 12 1/2 pounds, Sarick said.

The proposal includes a mix of housing — 11 deed restricted units and 65 free market homes — and an enhanced shopping experience. The plan also preserves open space on the approximately 10-acre site and features a pedestrian bridge to Base Village, he said.

“It’s a place hopefully you’re going to run into your empty-nester neighbor while your kids are getting on the bus,” Sarick said.

The center’s redevelopment will also endeavor to bring Town Hall into this campus, he added.

Inside the door

Romero stressed to the capacity luncheon crowd that the Snowmass Mall project is more about economic development of existing businesses than a commercial redevelopment of the property. There are more than 40 merchants who operate businesses in the eight mall area buildings owned by the Romero Group.

While the building exterior might receive a fresh coat of paint and new signage is anticipated, “What’s going on inside the businesses is what we’re most focused on,” Romero said.

He also shared that when the Romero Group bought the mall, the tenants were used to month-to-month leases.

“When you’re operating at the mall and know your lifeline is 30 days, are you going to make any investments?” he asked rhetorically. “With that decline means there’s tremendous potential.”

There’s also potential to create four deed restricted apartments in about 2,500 square feet of mall space, Romero said noting, “We’re going to chip away at some of the problems.”

Romero opined that the Snowmass Center and Snowmass Mall share another commonality: “Both of those assets have wild potential but they’ve been grossly underserved and under-appreciated” by past landlords.

An improved RFTA stop for the mall, and a more appealing entrance to the center, which doesn’t involve dumpsters at eye level, are also included in the respective plans.

Madeleine Osberger is a Contributing Editor for Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99