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Cordillera resort to reopen as tony drug-treatment facility for “seriously underserved population” — the wealthy

After five lawsuits and lots of controversy, the upscale rehab center is first of its kind in Colorado, but there are thousands in California leading state to draft a raft of regulations

Perched like a castle on a hill, the former Cordillera Lodge & Spa, about 40 minutes from Vail ski area, is undergoing a $20 million renovation to become a substance abuse treatment center. Residents in the surrounding Cordillera neighborhood, where homes sell for many millions of dollars, sued five times to stop the conversion. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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EDWARDS — They are already gathering in the quiet room, where a glass wall reveals the arresting New York Mountain. Sitting in a circle of chairs, the therapists at All Points North Lodge are counseling the ailing as dozens of workers next door scramble to build a one-of-a-kind addiction treatment facility in the heart of the Eagle Valley.

“This will be the new model. The best-of-the-best in terms of behavioral health and integrated care,” said Jeff Brooks, the soft-spoken behavioral scientist and addiction therapist tasked with developing an addiction-treatment program for a 72-room luxury facility inside what was a once a five-star resort hotel. “It’s definitely a new vision for integrating biological, psychological, social and spiritual care under one roof.”

Therapists have already began to gather in a quiet meeting room at All Points North Lodge at Cordillera, even as renovations continue to convert the posh spa and hotel into an holistic addiction treatment facility. All Points recently received its addiction treatment certification two weeks ago and are aiming to open doors to locals in the sober living community on April 1. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)

It’s a long, winding road past the guarded gatehouse to the 69,000-square-foot lodge that stands like a castle atop the Cordillera community. Noah Nordheimer knows it well, both literally and figuratively.

The investor and recovering addict whose struggle with pain medication after an injury spurred him to build a thriving public-service treatment program in Baltimore, Maryland, has spent several years laboring to buy and convert the former Cordillera Lodge & Spa into a drug addiction treatment center.

The journey has seen him navigating and winning four lawsuits filed by irked homeowners lamenting the loss of their resort community’s centerpiece. Now he’s corralled deep-pocketed investors and is building what he promises will be the most progressive approach to stemming the country’s addiction crisis.

“It took a while for us to get here, but now we are focusing on people’s health,” Nordheimer said. “Many of our guests are coming to us because they have a dependence to a substance or a behavioral health issue that they want us to help solve. We are not looking at these things in a silo. We are looking at overall health, from nutrition to fitness to primary and preventative care needs. I really think this place is going to do a lot of people a lot of good.”

The plan is big. Nordheimer and his investors are spending $136 million on the project, starting with a $20 million renovation of the lodge, which opened in 1988 and was made famous — or rather infamous — in 2003 when a 19-year-old concierge accused basketball superstar Kobe Bryant of sexual assault following an encounter at the tony hotel.

The project involves converting the 56-room hotel into a 72-room, 110-patient treatment center with a mix of single- and double-occupancy rooms.

Brooks’ team has signed a long-term lease on a 10,000-square-foot mansion that will house six patients in a more intimate therapeutic environment. Plans are underway to develop additional acreage below the lodge into what they call an “all-inclusive, holistic healthcare campus,” for patients who have graduated from more intensive care.

When the renovation is complete, the lodge will employ about 100 people full-time, making it one of the larger private employers in the region.

Projects like All Points North Lodge help diversify Eagle County’s economy with high-paying jobs that attract and retain skilled workers, said Chris Romer, the head of the Vail Valley Partnership.

“Construction also remains a large part of our economy and requires a vibrant economy across all other sectors – from tourism to medical to outdoor recreation – to continue to thrive,” Romer said. “The issues seem to have been well vetted through the public process and the court system, and we hope the Eagle County community welcomes and embraces them moving forward.”

The lodge’s evidence-based addiction recovery program — meaning it deploys a science-based intervention with health, fitness, medicine and psychiatry, versus the traditional 12-step approach — is targeting high-level executives, athletes, musicians and entertainment superstars, with prices ranging from more than $40,000 a month for double-occupancy to $120,000 a month for spots in the private home.

A second-track — called the day sober-living program — offers sessions for local patients in recovery.

“Holistic and integrated care are words we frequently use here,” explains All Points North Chief Operating Officer Jeff Brooks, who has been clean and sober for 27 years. “Our model we’re forging is one of the first of its kind because it a more synthesized way of treating patients– all under one roof.” (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Brooks said there is a “seriously underserved population” of wealthy people struggling with addiction.

“A lot of market research shows that there is a strong demand for this type of service,” Brooks said, noting All Points North Lodge’s five-star hotel services offered alongside behavioral health addiction treatment “in an area that provides the amenity level, but also enough seclusion to offer privacy and discretion.”  

The five lawsuits

Residents of Cordillera — which spans several communities across 7,000 mountainous acres above the Eagle Valley — fought for three years to block Nordheimer, filing five lawsuits in federal and state courtrooms. Their arguments included a $100 million class-action lawsuit arguing the rehab center would hurt property values in the remote, gated community where stone-and-beam palaces sell for many millions.

The fight centered on the loss of a community asset that suffered in the recession. Texas investment firm Behringer Harvard spent $35 million for the Cordillera Lodge & Spa in 2007. Firm founder Robert Behringer promised a renovation of the lodge when he announced his purchase, calling the upscale golf resort on 23.2 acres — which includes adjacent land intended for 19 more lodging units — “a unique and irreplaceable asset” and a “jewel in the mountains.

The Cordillera Lodge and Spa, where rooms rented for more than $900 a night, was described as a unique and irreplaceable asset by a buyer who renovated it after he purchased it for $35 million in 2007. Two years later, Cordillera’s planning agreement was amended to include medical uses and in 2013, the posh complex was offered for sale again. In 2016, it was sold to Concerted Care Group for $9.6 million. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Those were heady times in the resort real estate world, with buyers spending record amounts on homes. The 2007-08 home sales in the Colorado mountains hit highs that linger today. But the boom didn’t last.

By 2009, the economy was withering and the high-end real estate market collapsed. That year Behringer approached the county with amendments to Cordillera’s Planned Unit Development guide, hoping to weather the downturn by expanding the potential uses of the struggling lodge to include 34 options, including office space and medical facilities.

The county approved the amendment and Behringer, which renovated the lodge in 2008, put the property on the market in 2013, after membership to the Cordillera golf club declined to 53 residents, occupancy at the lodge plummeted and Cordillera real estate activity stalled.

Behringer called Nordheimer’s Baltimore-based Concerted Care Group the “only serious” buyer that looked at the property. In 2016, CCG bought the lodge and surrounding acreage for $9.6 million. That’s when residents noticed the 2009 PUD amendment allowed for an addiction-treatment center. They railed against the plan, challenging the county’s approval of the amendment in Colorado federal district court, Eagle County District Court and, most recently in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They lost every challenge.  

Residents expected the lodge would be redeveloped, said Rachel Oys, the general manager of the Cordillera Property Owners Association and Cordillera Metropolitan District, both of which joined several local homeowners in the five lawsuits seeking to stop the rehab center plan.

Oys said her boards disagree with “several points” in the Court of Appeals opinion, but they are glad to see the court confirm that “inpatient uses” are not allowed. The issue gets into some semantics here, because the investors behind All Points North Lodge refer to it as a “residential outpatient facility,” separated into distinct parts with a clinic and hotel-like rooms.  
The Court of Appeals’ November decision focused on that word, “inpatient.” The court noted that Eagle County’s commissioners — who forbid inpatient use of the clinic portion of the lodge following homeowner appeals of its 2009 PUD amendment — determined the project fit into allowed uses because it planned an outpatient facility with a separate residential component.

Homeowners argued the two separate uses constitute inpatient use. The appeals court declined to overturn the lower court’s support of the county approval for the rehab center, ruling the homeowners can argue the alleged zoning issue to the board of commissioners if they think All Points North Lodge violates the regulations.

Nordheimer, through his CSMN Investments, in October 2017 sued several Cordillera homeowners and their two associations, arguing the residents violated the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as fair housing and anti-discrimination laws in their opposition to the development of the former hotel.

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Moore on Feb. 12 dismissed all but one of Nordheimer’s claims, ruling the homeowners were immune to liability. On the final claim — that the homeowners and their associations violated fair housing rules — Moore ruled CSMN’s “complaint contains no specific allegations that any defendant coerced, intimidated or threatened anyone, or that any defendant interfered with anyone’s rights protected under the FHA” and granted the Cordillera residents’ motion to dismiss.

The $20 million renovation of the Cordillera Lodge & Spa into a drug addiction treatment center began in July 2018. The work included converting a 56-room hotel into 72 single- and double-occupancy rooms that will accommodate as many as 110 people seeking treatment. Fees start at about $40,000 a month for a shared room. Two “sample” rooms soon will be available for viewing by potential clients. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)

With the legal issues settled, dozens of workers from mountain construction firm RA Nelson now scramble across the lodge. Not a single area remains untouched. The former restaurant and bar are becoming a smoothie bar and cafe. Every pod of units has its own common room adjacent to counselor offices. The new owners donated $300,000 worth of furniture and furnishings to the local Habitat for Humanity as they develop a more modern appeal.

Nordheimer said marketing and advertising efforts are underway and his team is assembling a waiting list of patients. His team recently had actors and models gather in the glass-walled carriage house to film a commercial for the lodge. The models were talking with the lodge’s counselors for the video depicting a group session “and a couple of them had some breakthrough moments,” Nordheimer said.

“With the team and the setting there, you could just see how it put people at ease,” he said. “That certainly gave us some insight into what we are expecting to happen there. It’s just such a unique, amazing setting.”

A California model

The luxury addiction treatment lodge will be a first for Colorado, but it’s a progression of a well-established model in California, where there are almost 2,000 licensed treatment centers, many in residential settings. The explosion of neighborhood addiction rehabilitation in luxury communities in Southern California prodded state and local lawmakers last fall to craft a raft of regulations.

Many of the new California laws addressed operations, like forbidding patient brokering, in which rehab centers pay patients with hefty insurance coverage or pay agents to recruit amply insured patients. One new law requires doctors to more closely study the risks of opioids.

One law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2018 targets the increasing practice of for-profit rehabilitation companies buying several homes on a single street, creating a sort-of addiction treatment campus in the middle of high-end neighborhoods. That law — Assembly Bill 3162 — places restrictions on new rehab facilities in communities like Malibu, where dozens of addiction treatment centers are based in luxury homes. Another new law requires new facilities in residential homes to create plans for parking and medical waste disposal.

Ripple effects from the facility

About half of All Points North Lodge’s 100 employees will be on the service side: concierges, cleaners, maintenance workers, chefs and restaurant staff. The other 50 employees will be a team of nurses, physician assistants, addiction counselors and behavioral health specialists working under a psychiatrist and a doctor.

A second treatment track will offer outpatient services for valley residents who can drive up for regular sessions with counselors. The full lodge is slated to open in October while those outpatient services are set to begin in April.

Brooks, himself 27 years sober, said many of the peer counselors he’s hiring are in recovery, making them better able to connect with patients at the lodge. The ripple effects rolling down from the facility will help reduce the stigma of addiction in the community, Brooks said.

Brooks said All Points North Lodge’s workers and local clients will help to “raise the recovery IQ” in the Eagle Valley by mingling in the community and sharing stigma-dashing perspectives about addiction and relapse.

“As this social web unfolds, the community gets these new insights, and this informed process lowers the stigma and really raises the health of the community as people start to talk more about what they may be dealing with,” Brooks said.


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