If the density fits, Breckenridge might get a Ritz. That's where the proposal to build a four-star, luxury hotel at the base of Peak 8 currently sits.
Naming brand names at this point is entirely premature, especially since Breckenridge Town Council decided last week to pull back from voting on a proposed development agreement for the hotel over questions about the density of the project.
"Look, there is just no way for the seven people up here to tell you 62 TDRs is going to fit," said Mayor Eric Mamula referring to additional density requested by the hotel developers. "I can't tell you if two are going to fit. So we get a fit test, come back to the development agreement, and again with a development agreement, there are no promises. It's just there's a potential, and there's a potential."
The Miami-based firm Lionheart Capital is working in a three-way partnership with the local time-share company Breckenridge Grand Vacations and ski giant Vail Resorts to build a branded, four-star luxury hotel at the base of Peak 8 at Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Most basically, Lionheart has the money on hand and experience building large-scale luxury hotels in high-dollar resort markets. Meanwhile, Breckenridge Grand Vacations comes with local know-how and a long history of working with the town, and Vail Resorts owns the land on which the hotel would be built.
The hotel would go up where Vail Resorts' administration building is, adjacent to One Ski Hill Place, at the base of Peak 8 at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Developers say there is nothing else like it in Breckenridge right now, and they believe the four-star luxury hotel would fill a desperate need for lodging accommodations that's not currently being met.
The hotel would be along the lines of a Ritz-Carlton, J.W. Marriott or Hilton, according to developers, who say it's too early to talk about the specific branding with any kind of certainty because they will have to get approved to build the hotel first.
One question the town will have to answer hinges on the density of the project, as developers are hoping to exceed the maximum allowable density for the parcel by purchasing 62 transferable-density rights from the Summit County and town governments for about $3 million, based on today's going rate.
Developers and the town began informal discussions regarding the proposed hotel at the council's Nov. 14 work session meeting, where developers revealed the hotel would have to come with a residential component.
The initial discussions were designed to give the developers and town officials a chance to feel each other out, so to speak, and see if the project was feasible. At that time, developers indicated that, based on how those early discussions went, a formal application could be forthcoming.
During the November work session, it was also revealed that the proposed hotel wouldn't be financially viable without over 100,000 square feet of wholly owned condos, which accounts for the bulk of developers' request for additional density, in addition to some additional density for a restaurant and spa.
Lionheart Capital submitted its formal application on Dec. 1, along with a draft of a proposed development agreement, according to documents included in the Dec. 12 town council meeting packet.
The development agreement would basically enable developers to ask the town for certain things that outside of current building regulations, such as going above the maximum allowable density, according to town staff.
Council reviewed the documents during its Dec. 12 work session before its regular council meeting scheduled for later in the day, and a memo from the town attorney laid out the elected officials' options as they weighed the formal hotel request.
According to the memo, council could have opted to end all discussions, effectively killing the project, if they wanted. Another option would have had council take up the development agreement during its regular meeting, at which time the elected leaders could have voted on the development agreement.
Council also could have asked Lionheart Capital to revise the proposal, according to the memo, which details a fourth option in which council could hold off voting on Dec. 12 and kick the matter back to the town's planning commission for review at its next meeting.
Ultimately, council decided to pull the development agreement from Tuesday night's meeting agenda and seek the planning commission's input after deciding they just didn't have enough information to move forward with a vote.
"I think we need to go to planning," Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said responding to a question from the mayor asking how everybody felt about the proposal.
Others echoed Bergeron's position, and the proposal now goes to the planning commission, which is expected to have a "fit test" regarding the additional density, which wasn't available to council at the Dec. 12 work session.
In addition to density, other issues still have to be hashed out, such as the potential impacts on housing, parking and traffic, for example.
"I appreciate you guys are working on all the right questions, and there's a lot of questions here," Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe told the developers during last week's work session. "I'm just looking forward to driving toward these answers and seeing where we come out, but I do think the planning commission's fit test will be helpful."
Councilman Mike Dudick, who's also co-owner and CEO of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, recused himself from the discussions.
According to town staff, the town is now trying to see if the proposed density "has a fair shot" at passing. To determine this, they will look at things like site buffers, internal circulation and building heights, among other building specs, before rendering an opinion.
"There's just so many unknowns for us to be able to do a development agreement," Councilman Mark Burke told the developers. "For me, I just can't get my hands around it right now."