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Aspen Music Fest enjoys easing housing market

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado – There’s nothing like slumping demand in the Aspen rental market to make it easier to house some 1,000 people for a nine-week stretch in the heart of what is, at least traditionally, the resort’s busy summer season.

In past years, the Aspen Music Festival and School has sometimes put out a plea for housing. This year, the housing offers came to them, said Alan Fletcher, festival president and CEO. Accommodations for students, staff, visiting artists and others was both more readily available and less expensive, he said.

All of the festival’s 750 students have secured housing in town. Most reside at one of two of housing complexes devoted to music students in the summer months and Aspen Skiing Co. employees during the winter. The remainder have been accommodated without, as was done several years ago, putting students in a lodge that was no longer in business.

“We’ve had increasingly good luck with people in town coming forward,” Fletcher said.

Two years ago, for example, 16 people offered rent-free space in their homes to music students. This year, 43 students will live in free rooms scattered around Aspen’s neighborhoods. In return, the host families receive free season passes to the festival, which opened Thursday and runs through Aug. 23.

Last winter, with the economy struggling and the coming summer a question mark, local lodges approached the festival, offering deals to lock in accommodations for the season, according to Fletcher. That eased what has sometimes been a challenge in past years – securing affordable lodging for the guest artists who come for shorter stays during the festival, he said.

And, Aspen property managers who rent free-market condos and townhomes were also calling the festival last winter. They were willing to lock in season-long rental deals for the faculty and support staff who must be accommodated – sometimes with their families – for the duration of the festival.

When the market was hot, property managers were reluctant to rent out a residence for the entire season to the festival because they could demand a higher rate renting it out by the week, Fletcher said.

“This year, they were thinking, let’s get the whole summer locked in and we’re done.”

Next year, the festival’s housing needs will ease for another reason. Fletcher previously announced the 2010 festival will enroll about 100 fewer students and 15 to 20 fewer faculty members. In addition, the festival season will be shortened by a week.

janet@aspentimes.com


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