Mayflower: well-capitalized, sophisticated developer needed

The vast Mayflower acreage is situated in Wasatch County at the Mayflower exit on U.S. 40. Developers are considering whether to make an offer on the land. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)

Between 4,000 and 4,500 acres of land stretching from the Jordanelle Reservoir to Deer Valley.

Two thousand-plus units of development targeted for the acreage.

And all on the market.

As the Netherlands-based owners of the expansive Mayflower acreage in Wasatch County put the property up for sale, there will almost certainly be chatter in the Park City-area development community about the prospects of a deal for the acreage. If the property sells, it would be among the blockbuster deals of Park City’s skiing era.

Some figures in Park City’s development community see the potential of a property like Mayflower, but they also caution that a project of that size and complexity will require someone with a deft touch. The developer or development firm that ultimately inks a deal for Mayflower will need to be skillful enough wind the way through the detailed approval processes that will be required, they say.

The listing agents have not provided detailed information about the interest Mayflower has attracted since it was made public in the spring that the land would go on the market. One of the lead real estate agents, Bob Theobald, said in April a buyer would need to have "quite a bit of cash" and "development expertise."

Theobald early in the week said the marketing efforts will be expanded by the middle of July. He said there has been interest from local, national and international figures. The sellers’ goal is to have a finalized deal or the land under contract by the end of the year. That is "not unlikely," Theobald said.

"It’s a new portal to Deer Valley. It can be accessed from the airport, the Salt Lake airport, without a stoplight, and without traveling through downtown Park City," he said.

One veteran Park City developer said he has had an interest in Mayflower since before it went on the market. Rory Murphy said in an interview he is "heavily considering" making an offer on the acreage. Murphy was a key figure in the 1990s-era approval process of the project that would be built as Empire Pass, itself one of the largest projects approved in the Park City area in years. He was the lead developer of Silver Star and is now building a project just off lower Main Street.

"Its proximity to Deer Valley altogether makes it (a) very intriguing development opportunity," Murphy said.

He said the Mayflower land is "unique in North America," mentioning its location along U.S. 40 and its proximity to the airport in Salt Lake City.

"Mayflower’s been on my radar for a number of years now," Murphy said, adding, "I think that on-mountain development opportunities at popular resorts are few and far between."

The acreage sits off the Mayflower exit on both sides of U.S. 40. Most of the land is in Wasatch County and the rest is either in Park City or an unincorporated part of Summit County. The land generally runs from a point approximately 1/2 mile south of Deer Valley’s Jordanelle Express gondola to the Red Cloud subdivision in Empire Pass. Theobald has said a little more than half of the Mayflower development rights are situated close to Deer Valley and an expansion of the resort’s skiing is anticipated.

It seems likely some of the challenges of Mayflower will include raising the financing for a purchase and then the development itself. Any developer would also almost need to address environmental issues on the land.

The planning director in Wasatch County, Doug Smith, said midweek the department had not received recent inquiries about the Mayflower development rights or the additional approval processes that will be needed prior to work starting.

Smith predicted any developer will need to address issues like water rights, the environmental legacy of the mining era, the topography of the site and traffic, among other planning-related topics. He said it will be a "sophisticated developer" that acquires Mayflower.

Others in Park City development circles spoke in interviews about Mayflower, saying that a purchaser will need to be a significant player given the size and complexity of the project.

Doug Clyde, a consultant who had an important role in securing approvals for an ambitious redo of the Park City Mountain Resort base area as well as the development of parts of Empire Pass, said Mayflower should be positioned through its connections to Deer Valley and the Jordeanelle Reservoir.

"It takes a very sophisticated developer to make that happen," Clyde said about Mayflower, adding that a developer will need to be well financed.

Another development figure who has worked in Park City predicted there will be significant interest in acquiring the Mayflower acreage. Rich Lichtenstein, a Los Angeles-based consultant to Stein Eriksen Residences developer Regent Properties, said a buyer might seek a new set of development approvals that better reflect today’s trends. Wasatch County started approving the Mayflower entitlements in 1985.

"In this climate there’s an awful lot of investment dollars out there looking for good returns," Lichtenstein said.

He said he anticipates "institutional money," such as a large development firm or private-equity investors, will be the most interested. He said a buyer must have "patient money."

"It’s not your typical developer who will come in and acquire that," Lichtenstein said.

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