Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

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September 4, 2014
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Willits hotel site work under way

Work began this week on a 113-room hotel at Willits Town Center that the operator aims to open next summer.

Mariner Real Estate Management teamed with Silverwest Hotel Partners on the project. They obtained a permit from the town of Basalt last week to start work on the foundation.

Shaw Construction, based in Grand Junction, was hired for the job and mobilized on the site this week. Crews removed dirt and rock Wednesday from the hole that was previously excavated while other workers erected a construction fence around the site. The site abuts the residential part of Willits subdivision, south of Whole Foods Market and the new building that will house offices of Valley View Hospital physicians.

The new accommodations will be part of the Element Hotels brand under the umbrella of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. Starwood sent out a statement earlier this summer that said the hotel will be known as Element Basalt Aspen Valley.

The hotel will have limited services, but the studios and one-bedroom suites will have fully equipped kitchens and the brand’s “signature Heavenly bed,” Starwood’s statement said.

“Other brand signatures will include a state-of-the-art, 24-hour fitness center, pool and outdoor hot tub, and 626-square-foot meeting room with modular furnishings, a flexible layout and state-of-the-art technology that can be customized to meet any business or social needs,” Starwood’s statement said.

The hotel is designed to appeal to travelers on an extended stay. The hotel at Willits and the Element Denver will be the only properties in Colorado operating under the brand name.

The Basalt Town Council approved the hotel at its current site on March 24 after a long and sometimes contentious process. Mariner officials agreed to start construction of a 50-unit affordable-housing project by the time the hotel is finished. Affordable housing is required as part of the broader Willits Town Center approval. It’s not tied specifically to the hotel.

The town government agreed to place a question on the November ballot that will propose a 2 percent increase in the town’s lodging tax. If approved, Mariner could use revenues raised by its hotel from the additional tax for the next 10 years to offset construction costs.

If town voters don’t approve the tax, the town government agreed to pay a $500,000 lump sum from its general fund instead.

Mariner officials worked with Basalt’s Planning Department for nearly five months before the first of the required permits was ready to be issued. Officials on both sides said the terms were simply complicated and required time to iron out. Mariner and its partner were unable to take advantage of the summer construction season. However, Tim Belinski, a local representative of Mariner, said the hotel will take about 12 months to complete. That will still allow it to open in September 2015 if construction remains on schedule.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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