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Basalt coffers boosted by ‘bellringer’ $42.35M hotel sale

By Scott Condon, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer.

The sale of the Element Basalt Aspen hotel earlier this year produced an unexpected windfall for Basalt town government.

The 113-room hotel at Willits sold for $42.35 million on Jan. 20, according to a special warranty deed filed with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder's office. Town government reaped $847,000 in revenue from real estate transfer assessments that applied to the transaction.

“There was a bellringer occurring in the first quarter. The Element Hotel sold,” Basalt Finance Director Doug Pattison told the town council last week while reviewing the first-quarter financial picture. “We had not budgeted a dollar of that.”

The town has two assessments that applied to the sale. Each received $423,500. One of the assessments, referred to as RETA Willits, is split evenly with The Arts Campus At Willits, better known as TACAW. That arrangement was negotiated when approvals were granted for Willits Town Center.

TACAW’s share was $211,750, according to Pattison. The town’s share of that specific RETA is dedicated to arts projects and other public amenities, he said.

The other assessment, referred to as RETA 2, also generated $423,500 that will be used to supplement capital projects, said Town Manager Ryan Mahoney.

The town didn’t budget any of the funds because the private-sector sale wasn’t anticipated. Silverwest Hotel Partners LLC teamed with Platform Ventures LLC to develop the hotel in 2014-15. Platform Ventures formerly was known as Mariner Real Estate Management. The Kansas City firm revived Willits Town Center after another developer lost the project to foreclosure in the Great Recession.

Silverwest Hotel Partners and Platform Ventures formed a joint venture known as Silverwest Hotels that owned the Element Basalt Aspen after it opened in fall 2015. Ed Mace, a partner in Silverwest, told reporters at the time that he figured the hotel would be successful as an affordable alternative to lodging for families and individuals skiing in Aspen. The presence of the Whole Foods Market a block away was viewed as a major selling point for the hotel, which doesn’t include a restaurant.

The Element has studios and suites designed to cater to short-term and extended stays. Rates for last weekend ranged from $349 to $429 last weekend for two adults, according to the hotel’s website.

Silverwest Hotels sold to GPIF Basalt Hotel Owner LLC, an entity controlled by Crescent Real Estate LLC, a real estate investment firm that has offices in Fort Worth, Texas, and Denver, according to the recording documents.

Crescent hired HEI Hotels and Resorts to operate the facility. It remains an Element by Westin hotel. Westin is under the Marriott International umbrella.

Many property owners in the Roaring Fork Valley are feeling stung by recent reappraisals that Colorado counties were required to undertake. The new property values were based on sales between Jan. 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. Market prices have dipped since that period.

However, the amount paid by Crescent for the Element Basalt Aspen was significantly higher than the Eagle County Assessor’s reappraised value for the property. The assessor’s office determined that the market value of the hotel jumped from $15.08 million in 2022 to $36.4 million in 2023. Crescent paid $5.95 million, or about 16% more than the value determined by the assessor.

Efforts to reach officials at Crescent were unsuccessful. The company recently announced it would modernize guest rooms and refresh public areas.

The sale was brokered by JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group. JLL represented Silverwest and secured acquisition financing for Crescent, a news release says. Crescent’s affiliate company received a loan for $25,863,481 from Texas Capital Bank to complete the deal, according to a deed of trust filed with the Eagle County Clerk’s Office.

Basalt’s lodging industry experienced a strong 2022, according to the town’s sales tax report. Sales were up nearly 27% over 2021.

The Element will face competition later this year when the 122-room Hoffman Hotel opens across Highway 82 in Ace Lane’s Tree Farm development.