Ownership shuffling, land acquisitions and new office space all part of the picture at two base area development projects | SteamboatToday.com

Ownership shuffling, land acquisitions and new office space all part of the picture at two base area development projects

Wildhorse Marketplace owner Whitney Ward is researching options for expanding the commercial center into a parcel beyond the horse statue in the traffic roundabout. Ward already holds a final development permit from the city of Steamboat Springs but could choose to return to the city approval process in order to reconfigure the buildings.

— The new year has brought changes to the ownership landscape at Wildhorse Meadows and Wildhorse Marketplace between U.S. Highway 40 and the base of Steamboat Ski Area. They share a name and a development heritage, but they are completely different business entities.

Now, the original developer, Whitney Ward, has withdrawn from any involvement in Wildhorse Meadows, the residential development on Pine Grove Road where Trailhead Lodge dominates the landscape. He has, however, acquired full ownership of Wildhorse Marketplace, the commercial center nearby off Mount Werner Road.

Also, on Dec. 31, a limited liability company with ties to Real Capital Solutions, based in Louisville, purchased several key residential development parcels at Wildhorse Meadows in a pair of transactions from Bank of America totaling $5.82 million.

Real Capital Solutions is a real estate investment company that last year announced plans to acquire assets totaling $250 million in 2012 and 2013. The company directory indicates that its various branches are involved in commercial leasing, property management, leasing condominiums and apartments and home building.

Ward is the founding partner in Invesco Realty Advisors in Denver. He purchased a variety of development parcels from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. for $8.9 million in January 2004.

Ward subsequently sold several unbuilt parcels in Central Park Plaza, and he formed Resort Ventures West with Brent Pearson and David Hill to act as a development entity for the future commercial center and a large tract of land near the ski area's Meadows Parking Lot. Ward also acquired the former gondola parking lot, and although he planned for a time to partner with a Canadian firm to build a condominium project there, he ultimately sold it to Timbers Resorts, which in turn developed One Steamboat Place.

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Reached at his home on Florida's Gulf Coast this week, Ward said he is excited to move forward as the sole owner of the Wildhorse Marketplace commercial center and is exploring new concepts for development of the next phase just west of the horse sculpture in the marketplace’s traffic roundabout.

Wildhorse Marketplace is home to Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas, Prudential Steamboat Realty, Sports Authority, McKnight’s Irish Pub & Loft and a variety of other dining and retail establishments.

At Wildhorse Meadows, Pearson said the new purchasing entity, RCS Wildhorse Development, acquired land stepped into a hillside that had been foreclosed on by Bank of America and has been master planned for additional residential development. Those parcels begin at the intersection of Mount Werner Road and Broomtail Way, roughly opposite the intersection of Steamboat Boulevard and Mount Werner Road. The parcels wrap around a curve until they reach the existing Stonewood at Eagle Ridge development.

Ward said he sold out his interest in other Wildhorse Meadows parcels to the remaining partners.

Pearson said Resort Ventures West, in which he and Kerry Shea now are the principals, does not own any land. However, Pearson is a member of several partnerships that own a handful of debt-free parcels that were not part of the closings Dec. 31. They include all of the commercial/residential area around the Wildhorse Meadows gondola lower terminus, a parcel of undeveloped land in front of Trailhead Lodge and the land representing the second phase of First Tracks residential condos.

Future developments at Wildhorse Marketplace

Pearson said that when Ward acquired full ownership of Wildhorse Marketplace, they mutually agreed that because Resort Ventures West is a tenant in the center, it was desirable for his company to step back from being the leasing agent at the center. A new emphasis at the center, Ward said, will be to sell the commercial spaces instead of leasing them, and he hopes to begin with many of the existing tenants.

"I've hired Jon Sanders, of Ski Town Commercial, to help with sales and leasing to actually sell shop spaces to owner-operators so that we have people more substantially committed to their businesses," Ward said. "That's a big change, and it's a no-brainer right now when it comes to financials. When you compare what a person can purchase their space for, there's great debt available. If you apply those rates, their payments are roughly half what their rent would be."

Ward will retain ownership of the movie theater building and the building that houses Sports Authority, anchor spaces that provide long-term cash flow.

Sanders said he has just placed the leased commercial spaces, representing 22,266 square feet, on the Steamboat Springs Multiple Listing Service for $5.5 million. However, the initial emphasis will be on selling individual commercial spaces to the existing tenants.

"It's very rare you find the opportunity to purchase and drop your cost, and that time is right now," Sanders said.

Medora Fralick, of Commercial Property Group, will manage the buildings going forward.

Ward and Sanders also are putting out feelers to businesses that might want to locate in new buildings that could be built just west of the horse sculpture in the roundabout at Wildhorse Marketplace.

Ward and Sanders, along with Brandt Vanderbosch, of Vertical Arts architecture firm, are looking at concepts for new buildings in the expansion area. That phase already has a development permit from the city of Steamboat Springs allowing Ward to build an additional 24,000 feet of commercial space, but he is looking at designs for office buildings of between 12,000 and 18,000 square feet. Reconfiguring the buildings would have required him to go back through the city planning process.

"We've had some significant discussions, but we're not ready to go into the city," Ward said about the potential office buildings. "We want to know who the users are before we go back."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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