A snapshot of the top of Aspen’s luxury real estate market

Sales of ultra-high-end homes in the Aspen area slowed down in 2012 compared to the prior near-record year, but not by much. And part of the reason could be a trend that will likely become even more apparent this year — a dearth of new properties on the market for the world’s wealthiest would-be buyers. Eighteen residential properties in the upper Roaring Fork Valley changed hands for more than $10 million last year, compared to 22 in 2011. But what started out as a significantly slower year for high-end sales ended with a significant uptick — two-thirds of the $10 million-plus sales occurred in the second half of 2012, five in the latter half of December alone. Sales over $10 million ranged from a $10.47 million, five-bedroom home on the Roaring Fork River off Cemetery Lane to the 130-acre Starwood estate (including a 56,000-square-foot home) that Saudi Prince Bandar sold to hedge fund titan John Paulson for $49 million.

Need for second private jet center in Aspen questioned

An aviation industry executive has come out against the concept of adding a second private jet facility to Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, although the plan to build one seems to be headed for reality anyway. Lou Pepper, CEO of Atlantic Aviation, which runs the current “fixed-base operator” at the Aspen airport, said it’s a mistake to consider a second one, as has been suggested to Pitkin County officials. A consultant to Aspen airport officials recently made the case for a second FBO to the Pitkin County commissioners, calculating that an additional facility could pay the county some $3.2 million in rent. (See related story, “Fuel sales could boost airport revenues.”)

Airport officials seem to agree with Stephen Horton’s argument, which is based on a comparison of fuel sales in Aspen and at a planned new private facility at San Diego International Airport. Horton, of Leibowitz and Horton Airport Management Consultants, pointed to Landmark Aviation’s winning bid to build a replacement FBO at San Diego, which includes paying $5.2 million in annual rent over a 37-year lease.

Fuel sales could boost airport rent revenues

ASPEN – Pitkin County could receive at least $3 million in annual rent from a proposed new private jet center—a sum that is 16 times more than what the current fixed-base operator pays at Sardy Field. Airport finance consultants explained the situation to the Pitkin County commissioners during a mid-August meeting on the airport master plan, which the county is expected to adopt this fall. The current draft airport plan includes building a new fixed-base operations facility—a terminal and services for private planes (or general aviation, as it’s officially called)—on the west side of the airport. The current fixed-base operator, Atlantic Aviation, leases a facility on the east side, and is expected to pay the county $167,000 in rent this year. The current lease was signed back in 1993 by Atlantic’s predecessor, and at that time was probably a fair deal for the county, airport director Jim Elwood told the commissioners.