You probably haven't heard of Gerald Hines. Not yet. But now that his $8 billion development company has turned its attention to the ski industry, if he chooses, Hines Interests Limited Partnership could be the biggest player in the resort renaissance field. "We have formed a new division, based in Aspen, and our intent is to develop resort properties across the United States and the world," says spokesperson Jeff Wikstrom. "There are still opportunities out there."
Hines is starting with two Colorado projects: base villages at Winter Park and Aspen Highlands. The pair play to opposite ends of the spectrum. Where Aspen Highlands is an extremely high-end development at the ne plus ultra resort for the wealthy, the village at Winter Park lies beside a ski area owned by the City of Denver. Aspen is just about sewn up in terms of development; Winter Park is wide open, a place that looks like Summit County, Colo., in the Sixties.
Hines, a privately held firm based in Houston, develops commercial real estate almost exclusively. The firm counts 2,700 employees in the U.S. and 10 foreign countries, and manages 70 million square feet of commercial property. In terms of volume, it dwarfs Intrawest, Vail Resorts and American Skiing Co. For more information, call (970) 920-1801.
Aspen Highlands Village, Colo.
Aspen Highlands Village, begun in the summer of 1998, will create a base village where none exists. What differentiates it from competitors is that Hines agreed to dedicate 48 percent of its new construction to affordable local housing-112 total units.
"We are trying to build a community," says project manager Dwayne Romero. "This is not a high-rise for a group of tenants, which is a significant departure for Hines."
The Aspen Skiing Co., despite its four mountains, found itself in the early 1990s to be the proprietor of the priciest ski destination in the nation-yet the owner of almost no base real estate. Hines and the privately-held Skiing Co. swapped equity for the 70-acre Highlands Village development, so each now owns a piece of the other, an alignment of interests that should help keep the beds hot.
The 112 affordable-housing units will be reserved for locals who struggle with exorbitant real estate costs and will be highly contested. The net result will be a core of year-round residents at the base, two miles from downtown Aspen. "This can't be a winter ghost town," says Romero. "It can't be a place where you only have people living here during ski season."
That possibility is a distinct likelihood, however, for the 31 single-family-home sites ringing the base. Ranging in size from a half-acre to an acre, the lots alone are selling for $1.1 million to $3.3 million. An additional 32 townhomes-up to 3,500 square feet-are planned for the village, which was designed by Robert A.M. Stern. If trends demonstrated at other resorts hold true here, only the 73 lodge units will be consistently occupied. The other properties are unlikely to be rented at all, because their owners generally won't need the income.
The townhomes are expected to come on the market in 1999-prices aren't yet set. As for the single-family lots, Hines had 39 offers on the first 12 that went to market last August.
Winter Park, Colo.
Base development wasn't possible at Winter Park until the mid-Eighties, when the Forest Service and ski area completed a land swap. Now a base village is planned in three parcels encompassing 76 acres. When it's done, it will include 1,454 units and 154,000 square feet of retail space-a project likely to take a decade.
The first project, Zephyr Mountain Lodge, is located on a former base parking lot. Construction began last summer, after nearly 100 of the 230 units sold during the first weekend they were offered. Early buyers already stand to make a profit since the units have appreciated by about 5 to 10 percent. A full 40 percent of respondents to a post-sale survey gave "investment" as their No. 1 reason for buying. Three-fourths indicated interest in renting their units out.
This latter fact is important because Hines is the only base developer of the Big Four who has a project underway that doesn't involve financial partnership with the ski area operator. This creates a potential divergence of interests; Hines, after all, does not have a bottom-line interest in selling lift tickets.
Hines' base project is the smallest of three developments planned for the Fraser Valley. Four miles down the road, the Mary Vale project will add 4,100 units on 1,000 acres. Farther north at Pole Creek Meadows, 100 homesites are being sold for $100,000 apiece.
sold for $100,000 apiece.