Who Is East West Partners? A profile of local developer
With the purchase of PC-2 last September and the acquisition of the adjacent Featherstone parcel in April, East West Partners became the largest landowner in the Town of Truckee, owning an estimated 10 percent of all the land within town limits.
But these holdings are just a drop in their portfolio. East West has owned, managed and developed over a billion dollars of real estate from Beaver Creek, Colo., to Hilton Head, S.C., from Montana to Northstar. Based in Colorado, East West has over 20 sales offices in the Vail Valley and participates “in over 65 percent of all real estate transactions in Eagle County, Colo.”, according to a company brochure.
The last thing many would expect such a real estate powerhouse to do is support a state-wide initiative that would severely restrict growth in much of rapidly growing Colorado. Such was the case last fall, when East West Partners got behind Amendment 24.
But according to town officials, planners and officials in the company, East West Partners does a lot of things differently.
“We operate differently than any other company that I know of,” said Roger Lessman, managing partner for East West Partners/Tahoe, based in Truckee.
“They’re an interesting company,” said Matt Baker, with Colorado Public Interest Research Group, the nonprofit environmental and consumer advocacy group that was one of the prime sponsors of the slow growth amendment on last fall’s ballot in Colorado.
Had it passed – it failed, according to Baker, after developers spent over $5 million advertising against the measure – it would have been one of the strongest anti-sprawl initiatives in the country.
Not only was East West the only major development company to support Amendment 24, but according to Baker, “They put their money where their mouth was.”
“They contributed substantial financial support, and were one of the largest donors to the initiative,” Baker said. “We were thankful for their support. There were no other major developers supporting this. They seem to have a sincere commitment to not turning Colorado into Los Angeles.”
“It was an unusual position for someone like us to take,” said Lessman. “But the essence of the initiative was local, community planning, which we are very much for. In an uncontrolled environment, there are developments that happen that don’t contribute to the community.”
The Colorado amendment would have required cities and counties to submit detailed information, including maps, about projected growth for public approval.
Baker did note, however, that the amendment wouldn’t have been entirely detrimental to East West.
“It would have hurt them in some of their places (they wanted to develop) and helped them in others. I think it is in their own self-interest to support (the initiative),” he said.
The company has made a concerted effort to limit its critics by addressing the concerns that others have about their projects.
“They are a class act, as far as developers go, and I don’t say that about everybody.” said Cliff Thompson, a reporter for the Vail Daily who has covered the area for the last 20 years.
Planners and town officials from communities near Vail expressed similar sentiments.
“Our experience has, generally, been quite positive,” said Breckenridge Town Manager Tim Gagen. Gagen said East West is currently in the midst of redeveloping a commercial area near the ski resort that also serves as a transportation hub in the town.
He said the town has tried to encourage developers to reduce housing densities on projects “with generous master plans that were granted back in the early 1980s (to encourage development).”
Gagen said representatives of East West accommodated the town’s wishes and reduced the size of their proposed development.
“Knowing they had rights (in their master plan) to do something else, they downsized (the dwelling units) their project.”
“They are pretty careful about getting some of their neighbors’ opinions,” added Eagle County Planner Matt Gennett. Gennett said he has worked with East West in a small commercial development in the town of Edwards.
“There were some concerns about the amount of lighting, and they made sure they didn’t have lights shining into people’s homes.”
Gennett said the company not only has a “solid reputation” in his department, but in the surrounding communities as a whole.
“In my experience, they don’t garner any ill will,” Gennett said. “Certain organizations do have a very negative public image based on previous developments.”
Gennett did note that most East West developments appeal to a certain niche.
“It’s a market and a public that is pretty exclusive,” he said.
East West was started when Harry Frampton left Vail Associates in the early 1980s. At the time, Vail Associates owned and managed Vail and Beaver Creek Ski Resorts.
According to Lessman, Frampton and East West started by developing “around 10 condos at Beaver Creek.” Later, East West was instrumental in bringing the Hyatt Regency to Beaver Creek, which at the time was their biggest project.
East West would go onto develop over 65 percent of the real estate in Beaver Creek, before expanding to Breckenridge.
“Our primary focus has been on resort real estate development,” Lessman said.
Today, East West Partners includes resort services, real estate, development, and supporting infrastructure for their developments, including a transportation company and telecommunication services.
Lessman described the company structure as one that has no centralized board of directors and one in which many different business “entities” may arise out of a single operation. East West does, however, continue to be the controller of those entities.
“We don’t buy a parcel, then sell it off to a development company,” Lessman said.
One of those entities is the Truckee Land Company, which owns the 790 acre PC-2 parcel (renamed Meadowbrook) and the adjacent 900 acre parcel of Woodlands (formerly known as Featherstone).
Plans for Meadowbrook include 600 homes (100 of which will be affordable housing), situated around an 18-hole, private golf course.
Preliminary plans for the Woodlands include “Sierra-style” cottages, a golf course, lodge and a tennis complex. Lessman said the course at the Woodlands will have “some element of public access,” but wouldn’t elaborate beyond that.
East West has also partnered with Booth Creek, owners of Northstar, in a joint venture to develop the remaining property at Northstar.
In addition, East West owns Sunsets restaurant in Tahoe Vista and has a 20-year lease for the Coyote Moon golf course off of Northwoods Boulevard.
With the combined resources of these communities and amenities, Lessman said East West hopes to “market this area as a destination resort. It’s not just about skiing anymore,” he said. “(There) is a trend towards more year round recreation (And) golf is a major component of this business.”
Next week: What East West plans for Truckee
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