The partners behind the Gorsuch Haus hotel project approved as part of the Lift One corridor public vote in March are seeking investors to fund construction.
“There could be a sale to build it,” said Jeff Gorsuch, a partner in the Norway Island development group that won entitlements to build the 81-key, 64,000-square-foot lodge at the base of Aspen Mountain. “My commitment is I am going to be involved from the get go all the way through to what we are going to build.”
Gorsuch and project spokesperson Allyn Harvey emphasized that the group that conceived of the hotel and advocated for its approval want to remain involved and bring in investors who allow local control. Whether the project will be called the Gorsuch Haus upon completion depends on the outcome of the discussions with investors.
“I want to make sure there is a development partner we can get to the finish with and we can deliver on the set of entitlements that we won preliminarily,” Gorsuch said, noting that the total financing needed to get the job done is in the $100 million range. “I love the idea of it being called the Gorsuch Haus — that is my vision. Whether other people hold that vision, I would like to believe that is a possibility.”
Gorsuch said he and his local partners would like to maintain a stake in the hotel going forward but it “probably won’t be a controlling interest. It will probably be a collaborative interest.”
Norway Island has been working with Lowe Enterprises as its development partner through the entitlement process, which culminated with Aspen City Council sending the project, along with a neighboring hotel development and a new Lift 1A chairlift, to voters. The Lift One corridor plan, which will result in the new chairlift reaching Dean Street — three blocks lower than the existing lift — won by a mere 26 votes in the March election.
Lowe is developing a financing plan but Norway Island is within its contractual rights to seek other options, Gorsuch and Lowe principal Jim DeFrancia said.
“This is something that is very typical and not unusual in these circumstances,” Gorsuch said. “We have an opportunity to get a test of what the market would value these entitlements at.”
DeFrancia said that Lowe has known from the get-go that Gorsuch Haus developers could seek new financial partners after entitlements are secured. The project is going to take “a great deal of additional capital to get built,” DeFrancia said.
“While we are fully prepared to continue in our role as a development partner and we are quite capable of providing additional capital, Jeff and his team did have the right to look at other options and I would say, candidly, to see if they can make a better deal.”
DeFrancia noted that one potential scenario would see new investors come in while Lowe maintains its position managing the development process. Lowe could also wind up financing the construction if Gorsuch doesn’t find an alternative scenario worth pursuing.
He added that there are no hard feelings if the Gorsuch Haus developers go a different direction.
“Sure, you are always hurt when you don’t get to finish a project that you started, especially one you believe in … but economics are economics” and the partners have a right to a return on their investment, he said.
Discussions on the financing are likely to reach a decision point in the next few months. In the meantime, Gorsuch and Lowe are continuing to move forward with preparations for a final application to the city of Aspen. They are working with the neighboring property — the Lift One Lodge — on the details needed to progress toward construction.
“It’s not like anything has come to a stop or a halt,” DeFrancia said, and all the parties are working toward being able to start construction in as soon as two years.
Michael Brown, a partner in the Lift One Lodge project, said his group is not seeking new investors and has the capital it needs to build its 104,000-square-foot timeshare hotel. The two neighboring development have had two or three meetings since the March vote, he added.