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The Annals of Aspen Real Estate: A Bargain… for 43.8 Million?

Brandon Wenerd's picture

A full-page ad in this past Saturday’s Aspen Daily News reads: “A rare opportunity! Own this 18th Century inspired Tuscan Estate Just Minutes From Downtown Aspen.” The casual newspaper browser commuting on a free RFTA bus to a meager 12-dollar-an-hour service industry job in Snowmass Village or Aspen’s downtown core might skim over the price, found in tiny print at the bottom of the page: 43.8 million dollars.

For 42.4 million dollars, one can own a 6-bedroom, 8,000 sq. ft private wing of New York’s iconic Plaza Hotel, according to a listing in the New York Times Real Estate section. This is one of the reasons why the Grand Tuscan Estate is a steal if you’re in the market for an extravagant property: your jetsetting hedge fund partners will nod their heads in fraternal approval when you rattle off dimensions five times bigger than a premium hotel penthouse with Central Park views.

The spec-details of the Tuscan Estate are so lavishly over-the-top and fantasy-like that the property flirts with tastelessly absurdity, particular in the current economic strain. The real estate agent's website describes the property as “40,000 square feet of hand cut, gently placed Pican Limestone,” complete with 10-foot tall Mahogany doors and “100 year old hand hewn timbers throughout the entire estate.” According to the online listing, the aged limestone flooring in the kitchen is same stone used in Roman Coliseums, making it idyllic for hosting a Caligula-like feast. The estate boasts dramatic views of Mt. Daily and Mt. Sopris and 5,000 square feet of patios and decks. In fact, the property has more patio space per square foot than the average size of many suburban McMansion homes.

The estate comes with a state of the art theatre with a 120-inch projection screen, a temperature controlled wine cellar with Venetian plaster, a wood paneled library with a bar, a exercise room with 15-foot long steam shower, bathrooms the size of tractor trailers, five huge hearth fireplaces, cavernous bedrooms with silk linens ready to host an Eyes Wide Shut orgy, and a caretaker unit - assuming the buyer is going to be an absentee-landlord with no plans of living on the property. There are plenty of nice extras jacking up the property value, including plenty of pastureland, a meticulously landscaped outdoor gathering area with a fire pit and spa, and a freestone stream feeding into a landscaped pond with a 15-foot tall waterfall.

Indeed, The Tuscan Estate is the type of dreamy real estate dream often showcased as a glossy centerfold in issues of Architectural Digest. However, the discerning buyer will realize that there are a few important details missing from the West Buttermilk property: a helicopter landing pad, a planetarium, a safe to stash a priceless stolen art collection, a high-tech underground nuclear fallout bunker, and a pool. For 43.8 million dollars, the property does not have a refreshing, heated swimming pool to plunge, frolic, float, and splash in between bites of beluga caviar and sips of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne straight out of the bottle during the summer months. The tedious process of arranging contractors to a tranquil infinity pool overlooking the Elk Range may be too daunting and laborious for a certain privileged class. Lacking this selling point could be a turn off for potential buyers who take a “well, let’s shop around” mentality. Aspen might loose these real estate shoppers when they have to settle for a private island (with a pool and a beachfront heli-pad) near St. Barths instead.

It goes without saying that astronomical real estate transactions are par for the course in Aspen. Ranches with celebrity owners are commonly priced in the double-digit millions. Last year, Roman Abramovich, the billionaire Russian oil oligarch and controversial owner of England’s popular Chelsea Football Club, bought a 200-acre retreat and architectural marvel in the nearby neighborhood of Wildcat Ridge. The price tag for the scenic 11-bedroom ski hangout: $36.375 million. Neither the Tuscan Estate nor Abramovich’s Wildcat Ridge are in the same ballpark as the 2006-listing price for Saudi Prince Bandar’s Starwood Ranch – a 56,000 square-foot, 94 acre, 30-room estate on a mesa in the clouds above Woody Creek. The Prince’s home was on the market for a price between 125 - 135 million. Then again, Starwood Ranch was – at one time - the second largest home in the world. It is worth noting the property included an indoor swimming pool.

Nonetheless, Starwood Ranch and Saudi Prince Bandar do not entertain the same sex appeal as the Tuscan Estate. Recently, retired Italian fashion mogul Valentino partied there with a cast of runway models during Aspen’s inaugural Fashion Week. The property was also featured on VH1’s “Fabulous Life Celebrity Real Estate Splurges,” which seems like an odd selling point; if you have time to watch VH1 while dining on microwaveable Ramen and ogling ballin’ celebrity lifestyles, you probably aren’t sitting on 40 million dollars for a mountain vacation home.

So, for 40-some million, you can own a piece of the Aspen dream and stimulate the local real estate market with an influx of capital. Just don’t expect a swimming pool.

The Tuscan Estate
West Buttermilk, Aspen, CO
Joshua & Co Realtor Brokers, an affiliate of Christie’s Great Estates
For potential buyers, Realtor contact information, and a virtual tour of the Tuscan Estate: