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Billionaire buys small town in Colorado and locals panic

Illustration photo by The Daily Beast / Getty The mountain hamlet of Crested Butte, Colorado, covers less than a square mile, and at an elevation of almost 9,000 feet it is taller than it is wide. So when a Chicago-based billionaire quietly began buying his historic buildings, locals took notice. “I was alarmed that someone would come and buy so many commercial properties in the community,” former Gunnison County Commissioner Jim Starr told The Daily Beast. . “It hadn’t happened before. We have few owners who own two or three different commercial properties. But the magnitude of this was greater than what we have seen previously. The billionaire in question is investment banker Mark Walter. An extremely media-hostile figure, the CEO of Guggenheim Partners has amassed a net worth of around $ 5.3 billion, according to Forbes, with little fanfare. His most openly public move came in 2012, when Walter teamed up with Magic Johnson and several other entertainment figures to buy out the Los Angeles Dodgers for a record $ 2.15 billion. Walter’s activity in Crested Butte has attracted a lot of local attention among its people. of approximately 4,700. This year alone, Walter purchased six commercial properties, including several historic downtown buildings and a family-owned complex called the Almont, which sits at the intersection of the East and Taylor rivers. Walter has made the deals with limited liability companies registered at his work address in Chicago. “He’s been very – I wouldn’t say ‘secret’ – but definitely not keen on what he’s going to do with the buildings,” he said. said Crested Butte Mayor Jim Schmidt told The Daily Beast. Real estate agent Eric Roemer echoed the uneasy feeling: “Nobody really knows what their game plan is.” Zuckerberg gobbles up another big chunk of Hawaii’s waterfront “I have no idea what Mr. Walter is planning to do,” writer and Gunnison County resident George Sibley said, “and I don’t think so. neither does anyone else, maybe even Mr. Walter. ” Among his new investments, Walter acquired a building called Forest Queen for $ 1.55 million, a commercial property containing a spa and a tattoo shop for $ 1.85 million. , a restaurant called Wooden Nickel for $ 1.85 million, a health club for $ 1.7 million, undeveloped land for $ 5.5 million, and the resort for $ 6.3 million. In total, new purchases total more than $ 20 million. Walter did not respond to multiple requests for comment. It’s sort of a role model for him; In an opinion piece for Crested Butte News, local writer Mark Reaman described reaching out to the CEO’s real estate agent to see if he would discuss future plans. “After I was done laughing,” Reaman wrote, “she basically indicated that I probably had a better chance of getting Donald Trump to talk to me about Almont.” Even Roemer, who owned the Wooden Nickel before Walter bought it, said he didn’t. were able to obtain information on the plans. “The only thing his representatives have told us is that, at least with the Wooden Nickel, he is interested in continuing the operation as it has been,” Roemer said. “No one knows if this has changed yet. But he plans to open this business towards the end of May. The purchases left Schmidt somewhat confused, as commercial ownership in ski towns can make the economy tricky. Usually, he says, commercial buildings sell for about three times the price of local residences. But in high-end ski areas where homes get so expensive, the math can make it harder for small businesses to make a profit. “You would have to charge way too much for the burgers,” he says. “That’s the challenge.” A lingering question for residents is what Walter will do with the undeveloped land on the northern edge of town, towards the ski slopes. The sprawling property, known locally as “Sixth Street Station,” was approved for a massive hotel and residential building in 2017. According to Schmidt, it would be the tallest hotel in Crested Butte. But it’s unclear whether Walter plans to continue with the construction project. Walter has had a quiet presence in the Crested Butte area for the past decade. He and his wife have owned a home in nearby Mt. Crested Butte since 2009, and in 2011 he purchased a shopping complex known as the Grubstake Building for $ 766,700. The Grubstake was home to a tea house, cafe, art gallery and fishing shop, which Walter kept active.For some time, the CEO went through a local clearance process to convert the building into a place of music and dance. According to Starr and Schmidt, he subsequently canceled plans for the one-time payment required by the city for on-street parking. “He didn’t like the alternate parking fees that we charge all businesses,” Schmidt said. “Frankly, I was a little surprised that he thought the amount was excessive, considering what he pays a third string outfielder for the Dodgers.” For a while, several years ago, the town had an advertising slogan: “Crested Butte – what Aspen used to be, and Vail never was.” The joke was that Crested Butte was “Colorado’s last great ski town,” a town that had yet to be bought by even richer foreigners looking for a seasonal vacation. But some residents fear that Walter’s investments may change that. “One of the concerns, of course, is that when people have more commercial properties like this, rents tend to go up, making it harder for business owners,” Starr says. “And we have a serious shortage of affordable housing here, so that could potentially make that problem worse as well.” But Sibley pointed out that Walter has followed a long line of wealthy investors coming to Colorado. “There wouldn’t even be cities in Colorado if it hadn’t been for the outside money, essentially,” he said, citing Kansas bankers who had invested in Crested ski slopes. Butte and a Texas refining company that operated a mine nearby. Of course, it was a coal mining town and it was basically a company town for Colorado Fuel and Iron, which is based in Pueblo, ”Sibley said. “So it’s always been pretty much a wholly owned subsidiary of foreigners.” But Walter’s investment may herald a wave of a new strain of aliens. “I’ve heard people say, ‘We’ve reached the point where billionaires are kicking millionaires out,’ Starr said, ‘which many of us who have lived here for awhile hoped would never happen. ”Read more on The Daily Beast. Do you have any advice? Send it to The Daily Beast here Get our best stories delivered to your inbox every day. Register now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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