A crew that was demolishing the Sky Hotel last year to make way for the new W Aspen property found some surprises like fake walls and a swimming pool foundation that no one knew existed.
But the most surreal of the crew’s discoveries, and illustrative of the property’s happening past, was a fully made-up hotel room with decor, linens and nightstands that were popular during the “Miami Vice” heyday of the 1980s when the Aspen Club Lodge, the Sky’s predecessor, was an après-ski epicenter. The room was tucked behind a side door to the old 39 Degrees bar’s bathroom.
“The bed was perfectly made up and there was a nightstand next to it. It was a vision of 1980, like you could spend the night there,” said RJ Gallagher, founder and managing partner of Forte Aspen, the firm managing the residential marketing and sales for The Sky Residences at W Aspen.
Gallagher and two associates spoke last week of the property’s progress, and how the developers are undeterred by what a slowdown in the global economy could potentially mean for sales of shares in the 11 fractional units that comprise The Sky Residences.
There will also be 88 hotel rooms available in the W Aspen, the first significant new construction at the base of Aspen Mountain since the last economic downturn. A mid-June 2019 opening date is targeted, according to general manager Greg Durrer.
The fractional shares range in price from $550,000 to $797,000, according to John Sarpa, principal of Sarpa Development.
W Aspen is owned by Northridge Capital which bought it in 2001 with the idea of being “long-term owners,” Sarpa said. He teamed up in 2013 to co-develop the property the following year. He declined to cite a number for how much has been invested to date.
If the hotel opens as anticipated next June, its development will have elapsed over a five-and-a-half year process. The project received land-use approval in early 2015 from the city of Aspen, but demolition and construction were delayed a year while drawings were completed. In 2017, the developers settled a suit with neighbors over construction access that used the adjacent alley.
Neighbors and noise abatement
Currently starting to emerge from behind construction walls, the 125,000-square-foot W Aspen is similar in size to the Hotel Jerome, and larger than its next door neighbor, The Little Nell. It’s also almost double the size of its predecessor, though the property footprint upon which the construction is rising is in the 42,000-square-foot range.
There’s ski-in access from Aspen Mountain via the Sky’s old pool location. Sarpa said there will be places to store ski gear whether guests are en route to the second floor area called the Living Room, with a full restaurant and bar service, or via an elevator to the 8,000-square-foot rooftop deck with its pool, jacuzzi and DJ booth.
Noise levels will be monitored in-house, Sarpa said, as he acknowledged that noise issues between commercial and residential owners in Aspen have become a flashpoint in recent years.
“We spent a lot of time with the our neighbors on noise,” Sarpa said. He said during the city approval process the developers addressed “very specific attempts to mitigate sound.”
Sarpa added that technology has been refined to the point where “big boom boxes” are not required to provide the desired sound effects.
“On special occasions, when we know there’s going to be a higher level of sound, we have a series of sound mitigation panels,” he said.
Gallagher chimed in with, “Après on.”
The Little Nell has been in close contact with W Aspen’s team during the construction period with regard to noise, May Selby, spokesperson for The Little Nell, said Thursday in a voicemail.
The developers reiterated they aren’t concerned that a changing global market could negatively impact sale of the shares.
“I haven’t seen so much interest (before) in an offering,” said Gallagher. “It’s a ton of energy.” He said the Sky Residences have so far attracted “A lot of people who are going to give Aspen a shot for the first time.”
Asked further if that remains true if there is a recession, Gallagher said, “The shared ownership offering is a pretty good value for second home ownership. It’s even more attractive when the markets get squirrely.”
“We’re not concerned and we’re not hearing anything with the current prospects (who are looking or who have contracts). We think we’ll survive fine if it does in fact happen,” Gallagher added.
Durrer, W Aspen’s general manager, said, “This project has been underway for a long time. Everyone has been anxiously looking on, not only locally but nationally and internationally.”
Durrer reiterated that the property’s spaces are open to the public, and the intent is to offer the same kind of vitality that has attracted apres-skiers for generations. Framed posters from past incarnations of the hotel have been retained and will be seen again on these walls.
“It represents a legacy” in Aspen’s après-ski history, Durrer said.