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Construction remains down, of course, even if the sale of high-end homes began accelerating in 2010, particularly late in the year. Prices are down 30 to 50 percent from their pre-recession euphoria. As elsewhere, activity has picked up most quickly in Aspen itself, with less friskiness in outlying communities such as Basalt and Carbondale.
Tourism, of course, survived the recession much better. But even as occupancy rates pick up, lodging rates continue to decline. One firm that rents luxury condominiums in Aspen told the newspaper that occupancy levels have increased more than 10 percent this year, but the average daily room is down. "They know, like we do, that there's room at the inn," said Chuck Frias, co-owner of the firm, Frias Properties.
But as has been the case almost everywhere, December had a much greater bustle. Some of that bustle was in evident in the local buses, operated by Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.
While 2010 altogether had the fewest riders since 2004, December ridership was up substantially. "We appear to have reached the bottom and we've started to come back up," said Dan Blankenship, chief executive.
Bye, bye Capella, and hello Madeline
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, Colo. - The Hotel Capella Telluride is no more. Opened just two years ago, with service levels and other quality in the same league as all the continent's best hotels, it has been rechristened the Hotel Madeline Telluride.
How long it will remain that is anybody's guess. The $200 million property had a note of $156 million - and the developer needed to sell real estate in the project condo-hotel to pay the construction debt. He has sold exactly none, which by October was enough of a problem that the lender initiated foreclosure proceedings.
The primary lender is Swedbank, the leading bank in Sweden, which got involved after Lehman brothers tail-spinned into oblivion at the start of the Great Recession. The Telluride Watch explains that that the new name pays homage to Sweden's Princess Madeline.
In January, it was widely rumored that the hotel would close as of February, because of continued financial difficulties. Now, it looks like the hotel is here to stay - at least through ski season.
But two other high-end properties that had been planned in Mountain Village, the slope-side town at Telluride, never got off the ground. The parcel of land where a Rosewood hotel was planned has now fallen into foreclosure for the second time in two years. The first developer, New York's Aaron Honigman, couldn't repay a $50 million bridge loan to begin construction on the property two years ago.