Your Evening News - January 16th, 2015

Jan 16, 2015

Explore Booksellers Bought by Non-Profit Group

Aspen’s Explore Booksellers has a new owner. A corporation under the umbrella of the Public Interest Network purchased the historic building and book business for five million dollars. The sale closed earlier today.

The bookstore opened as usual on Friday, but with new owners. Previous owners Sam and Cheryl Wyly listed the property in June. Since then, efforts have formed around preserving the business – Aspen’s only bookstore.

The Public Interest Network stepped in and the sale was finalized Friday. Real estate broker Bob Ritchie represented the buyers.

“Right now they plan to operate it exactly how it’s been operated. They’ve rehired all of the same employees.”

Karen Setterfield is the real estate agent who worked with the sellers.

“I call it a win-win-win. It’s good for the buyer, the seller, it’s good for the community, it’s good for the bookstore and the property and it’s good for Pyramid Bistro, the tenant in the property.”

Ritchie says the new owners plan to bring to Explore interesting speakers and talks, and deepen ties with the Aspen Institute.

Candidate Confirms Aspen City Council Run

Aspen’s City Council has at least one likely candidate this spring.

Former Affordable Housing chief Tom McCabe has confirmed he plans to run for city council in May. McCabe retired as Director from the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority last October. McCabe says he would bring his expertise on how the city operates and likely focus on housing issues. He served one term on Aspen’s City Council in the early 2000s.

Roan Plateau Deal Moves Forward

The Bureau of Land Management is making good on a legal settlement from last fall by cancelling nearly twenty oil and gas leases on top of the Roan Plateau.

The agency agreed in November to drop seventeen leases. That was announced by the Secretary Sally Jewell and involved leaseholders and conservation groups. The BLM also agreed to pay $47.6 million to Bill Barrett Corporation. Now the BLM is officially canceling the leases. Spokesman Steven Hall explains why it’s taken several months.

“The Bureau of Land Management has a very public and open decision making process. And that means until we’ve gathered’ public comment, until we’ve done environmental analysis of various aspects of the settlement agreement, it’s not finalized.”

The BLM is now working on an environmental impact statement to add to the existing one. That was also part of the settlement made last fall. There are two oil and gas leases left for the top of the Roan Plateau as well as twelve at the bottom.

Busy Holiday in the Upper Valley

The Upper Valley experienced a particularly busy holiday season the week after Christmas. Peak occupancy at hotels and lodges in Aspen and Snowmass hit 96% on New Year’s Eve.

Bill Tomcich with the resort booking company Stay Aspen Snowmass says that’s the highest level of combined occupancy he’s ever seen for the two resorts.

What’s most impressive, he says, is the resorts stayed busy. Hotels and lodges were more than 90% full for six consecutive nightsfrom December 27th through January 1st.

“We’ve seen several years of consistent growth since the Great Recession in 2008. Those with distant memories will recall this is how it used to be. I remember how busy it was during the 97/98 ski season, which a lot of people consider the ultimate high water mark.”

Looking ahead, lodging is filling up in Aspen for the X Games while there’s still availability in Snowmass. The next busy, prolonged stretch will be in mid-February when many Brazilians visit for Carnival.