Whereas the stratospheric rise in real estate values in Aspen and Pitkin County has been the focus of many investors in the area, Meriwether Companies’ Garrett Simon sees the potential of the club operations as the proposition that really sold him on the Aspen Club.
Simon, a partner in the firm with Boulder and Santa Monica, California, addresses, said that the vision for the 5-acre property is a reinvigorated Aspen Club that marries myriad concepts of wellness — from traditional Eastern medicine to the technological advances that have catapulted the spa industry to nutritional food and beverage concepts — under one roof.
“We’re not going to satisfy everyone, but in a small community like Aspen, you have to have a pretty wide offering to have a connection with a lot of different people,” he said, adding that underlying Meriwether’s own corporate culture is a saying: “Exclusive can be lonely.”
The international brand power of Aspen, of course, also was a draw that inspired the $52.59 million purchase at a Jan. 6 foreclosure auction. While wanting to be accessible to both the year-round locals, second homeowners and tourists, Simon emphasized that the future iteration of the Aspen Club will maintain the sophistication that meets the “expectation of the Aspen experience.”
While the price points of services are details yet to be worked out, Simon emphasized it’s a balance he’s eager to strike.
“It is a million-dollar or hundred-dollar question, depending on who you ask,” he said of the club’s pricing. “Not everybody is going to be able to come and visit and utilize the Aspen Club. Our goal is, from an experience standpoint and a business structure standpoint and a desire for it to be used year-round.”
In order for the latter to be realistic, the club will have to cater to year-round residents who work and live in the area. Simon said he’s looking forward to getting to know the community more as continued vaccine rollouts and the like make doing so in person more feasible in order to learn that balance himself.
Taking care of business
Before anything else happens, however, first things first, Simon emphasized: taking care of the local contractors who have outstanding liens from the three foreclosure filings and bankruptcy that left dozens of construction crews unpaid.
It’s the first step in ensuring a smooth path forward, Simon said.
“We just want to do it as quickly as possible and really start focusing on the future,” he said. “There’s multiple steps [in the process]: there was the acquisition of paying off the lenders, which was $58 million, and then the next step is … settling and paying all the mechanics liens — all of the subcontractors, the contractor consultants that through the bankruptcy process are owed money, so we’re working on getting them paid in full. We needed to wait to actually get title as of Wednesday and now we’re transitioning to getting everybody paid. We anticipate a total cost of about $170 million.”
It’s an investment well made, as Simon quickly transitioned back to discussing a larger vision of a resort able to offer 20 three- and four-bedroom serviced residences in addition to the club itself.
“The actual building itself of the club — not to mention the residential — you could not replicate that anywhere in the mountains today, due to costs, zoning, all of that,” he said.
Already, having just completed the purchase in partnership with Revere Capital and Fireside Investments Wednesday, Meriwether is in talks with city officials to move the project forward, according to a company release. If all goes according to plan, construction will begin as early as this summer.
And city officials aren’t the only ones Simon and his team are engaging right now, he said.
“Wellness means so many things to so many people. We’re having some really exciting conversations with people in that space that are extremely well respected and have very long track records,” he said.
That of course will include a bit of the medical emphasis that the Aspen Club traditionally had, as well as holistic and spa treatments. But Simon sees an opportunity to expand the definition of wellness, especially in a pandemic era, in which people are re-evaluating many arenas of their lives.
“Physical therapy and recovery, but also performance — get people out. How do they thrive?” Simon posed. “And do that all under one roof. The quality of what we bring and the experience is commensurate of the Aspen expectation.”
While excited, Simon also highlighted the humility in his approach to the project. He may be future driven, but he knows better than to pretend the complicated past attached to the property can go ignored.
“We don’t have all the answers. Because of the acquisition and the structure around the foreclosure, we know there’s a lot of people who have been looking at this stuff for a long time; we want to move forward very thoughtfully but expeditiously to get to the great day when it’s up and operating, not only for the unique visitors but also the community.”