Death Nell

By "Cassandra"

If there is any doubt that the high-end of conspicuous consumption is stinging, just come and visit Aspen or Snowmass. Local Pitkin county radio this morning was discussing the closure of several well-known high-end retail stores - not for the season, but permanently. The reason cited: many of their clients, they said, were reeling from being "Bernied." The slopes are eerily quiet. Kids who we had booked into group lessons found themselves closer to private lessons. Chatting with a local high-end builder, he was quick to tell me that he has no backlog with current work ending in July. Yes, he said he's been through three of these before and something has always come up. But this time, the something has yet to materialize.

Most ridiculous is the real estate porn infusing local glossy mags, still sporting prices beyond the realm of the absurd. Despite the confidence of local cognoscenti made wealthy from peddling slopeside or barren building lots with a view, this shoe has yet to drop, sure as Danny Bonaduce had freckles and a numbingly expensive cocaine habit, it will drop with a resounding THUD! If one needs any evidence on top of the increasing number of building sites abandoned by homeowners made skittish or insolvent, they need only look to the headline news today of the abandonment of Little Nell's Snowmass project due to inability to sell forward OR find adequate financing. Not surprising perhaps at a mind-numbing $3,000 per square foot. This leaves a rotting carcass in the center of Snowmass - an eyesore to other local residents who've recently overpaid, or worse, put a deposit on a project that will likely fall into receivership.

Like many a bull-market project and their champions, Little Nell and their partners undoubtedly committed the cardinal investment sin of extrapolating forward, that which should never have been - at least not if one is dependent (or will be dependent) upon munificent external finance at some time before completion, or the stupidity of strangers. Such fallibility is nevertheless human, and before this cycle is over, they will not be alone in having assumed they could borrow required sums to complete, and subsequently shift astronomically over-priced leisure housing to the yet-to-be-identified even more stupid would-be purchaser. But requiring more scrutiny perhaps is the description of the project itself ("luxury," "five-star," "exclusive," "gourmet," "world-class"), for such adjectives appear increasingly suspect, with their redemption more elusive than anytime in living memory.

Original post can be found here


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