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Joyce Endee

Riverwalk hotel back on track

Developers are moving forward with The Riverwalk at Loon Mountain. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
February 22, 2012
LINCOLN — The idea has been pitched before, but developers are again seriously looking at building a grand hotel in Lincoln and starting to spread the word.

The Riverwalk at Loon Mountain would be a "fractional residence hotel," offering an investment and vacation opportunity without all of the hassles that come with owning a second house.

Terry Elsemore, president of Fractional Strategies Inc. out of York, Maine, is working on the project and has done similar projects across New England and out West. The idea is that people can buy an entire unit or a fraction of a unit, while getting four-star hotel amenities such as valet parking, room service, daily housekeeping service, a full destination spa, a health club with outdoor heated pools and an owners' private lounge, among other things.

At the Riverwalk, if residents walk out the front of the hotel, they will have shopping at their fingertips, and if they walk out of the back of the hotel, they will have skiing. A ski lift will be there to transfer them across the river to the bottom of a proposed lift on South Peak.

With an average price of $100,000 for a fraction — studios start in the $50,000s — one, two, and three bedroom units will be available and come fully furnished and professionally decorated.

Financially, said Elsemore, it's a "way to recapture vacation rental dollars."

Whole and fractional owners get to develop equity and they can will their shares to any heirs. They also can claim traditional second-home tax benefits and rent out their property through an optional rental management program during times that they know they won't be using it.

"It has all the positives of ownership and all the positives of timeshare," said Elsemore, but "the fractional cost per week is cheaper than" those two options.

Fractionals, he said, are meant for people who can't slip away from their jobs or their kids' activities enough to justify full ownership. They work like this: If you own a sixth-share fraction, you own every sixth week — a Friday to a Friday — so some years you will have eight weeks, and some years you will have nine weeks. Over six years everyone will get a Christmas week and a February school vacation week.

The carrying costs for fractionals are significantly less than full ownership, because those owners are only carrying a sixth of the operating costs and a sixth of the property tax.

There is absolutely no work to this ownership, said Elsemore. Monthly fees are all inclusive for landscaping, heating and electricity. Only four checks have to be written a year and there is virtually no bookkeeping.

The Riverwalk was proposed a handful of years ago, but it appeared to be placed on the backburner during the worst of the recession.

"A project of this scope and magnitude requires years of prep and planning," said Elsemore. "And with the economy coming back and the expansion of Loon Mountain, we think the timing is perfect."

A groundbreaking for phase one is estimated to take place this fall or in early spring 2013, and Elsemore said the units aren't yet for sale — they're just getting the word out about the project.

Elsemore started Fractional Strategies in 1998 with Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, and has since done similar projects at Killington and Mount Snow in Vermont; Sunday River in Maine; Attitash in New Hampshire; Hunter Mountain, Holiday Valley and Lake Placid in New York; Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts; Steamboat Resort in Colorado and Canyons Resort in Utah. The Lincoln hotel would be his 14th condo-hotel project.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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