The strange fate of one of Colorado's most treasured historic inns is uncertain once again. The Redstone Castle, a century-old bed-and-breakfast in the Crystal River Valley west of Aspen, which was saved from the auction block last summer, is going to be sold to the highest bidder.
The sad saga began in early 1999 when a new owner, who planned to use the castle as a hotel and marriage-reception facility, failed to make payments on it and spent the money that numerous brides- and grooms-to-be had deposited for their scheduled weddings there ("Broken Vows," June 9, 1999). The weddings had to be canceled, and the mansion, which was put up for auction, probably would have ended up as a private residence.
But just weeks before the August 29 auction date, a Denver custom-home construction company and a Dallas investment firm bought the castle together ("A New King in the Castle," September 1, 1999). Colorado Summit Partners and the Dallas-based Cumberland Fund had planned to expand the 20,000-square-foot hotel into a conference center and spa by adding eight to ten cottages to the 150-acre property; the investors had also hoped to build several single-family homes on one- and two-acre parcels north of the castle, at an average size of 3,500 square feet per home.
In January, however, those plans were foiled when Pitkin County commissioners imposed a six-month moratorium on any residence larger than 3,500 square feet. "We are taking what we believe to be long overdue steps to address growth impacts on Pitkin County services," the commissioners wrote in a letter to the public.
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"It was sad for us," says Jim Burghardt, a Denver attorney and a principal with Colorado Summit Partners. "But the long and short of it is this: The investment money for the project was coming [only] if we commenced construction this spring." The group scrapped its plans because it didn't want to wait to build or have to scale back its design if stricter land-use regulations were adopted after the moratorium, he explains. "We're not critical of the county for this; they do have growth issues to address. The problem was that our investors were not anticipating these kinds of delays."
The Redstone Castle will now be auctioned off at 1 p.m. on April 2, at the St. Regis Hotel in Aspen. The opening bid is set at $3 million; the carriage house and stables that share the grounds can be bid on for a minimum of $2.5 million. "[The castle] offers the astute buyer a multitude of opportunities, including a residential estate, corporate think tank, bed and breakfast, specialty hotel, religious retreat, fractional ownership or real estate development," reads a press release from Sheldon Good & Company, the real estate auction firm handling the sale.
Burghardt says the moratorium probably won't hurt the castle's chances of being sold to someone else, since some of the people who were interested in buying it in August weren't planning to expand the inn and may want to bid for it. But whether the castle will ever be open again for public use is unknown.