After nearly 40 years at the helm of Aspen’s largest employee housing development — and home to a significant contingent of the local workforce — Kim Keilin no longer will be running the show that is Centennial.
Keilin, who has managed the property since it was built in the mid-1980s, cannot detail specifics of her departure, offering only that Birge & Held, Centennial’s new ownership, deemed the role unnecessary and is altogether terminating her position.
That position, “community manager,” encompasses every facet of managing the 104,579-square-foot, deed-restricted property. Keilin’s last day will be June 1 — 36 years to the day after first assuming the property management role.
Birge & Held declined comment for this story but provided a prepared statement that speaks to visions of a “virtual leasing office.”
“Birge & Held’s adoption of a virtual leasing office for our two Aspen communities is part of an initiative to serve all residents, current and prospective, at all times of the day,” the statement from Birge & Held co-founder, president and chief operating officer Andrew Held reads. “This new technology is part of B&H’s larger initiative to expand property technology across our entire portfolio, not just in Aspen. Our onsite team in Aspen will still include maintenance team members to best serve all current residents’ immediate needs.”
Requests for clarification about the “virtual leasing office,” along with general information about who or what will assume Keilin’s responsibilities, went unanswered.
News of Keilin’s departure likely will come as a shock to many in the community, not only given her history at Centennial, but also following Held’s comments to the Aspen Daily News last week that the “three-person” team at Centennial — Curt Larson, Jake Ryan and Keilin — also would manage Ute City Place, which Birge & Held bought on May 9.
The national, $3 billion private equity, real estate investment, construction and management firm has expanded and acquired property at an exponential rate since its 2008 inception. To date, Birge & Held owns and manages 15,000 apartment units (and solely manages 22,000) across 13 states, predominantly in the central U.S., according to Held.
The Indianapolis-based firm marked its first presence in Colorado with the purchase of a Denver apartment in 2018. Birge & Held soon will own and manage 12 properties in the state — with developments in Steamboat Springs, Dillon and Georgetown as well as two more under contract in Denver — and is eyeing additional properties in Aspen. The firm bought Centennial in March 2020 for nearly $51 million with plans to scrape and redevelop.
“We love Aspen — I love Aspen, personally, from a family perspective and hope to spend as much time as I can out there,” Held told the Daily News in a May 12 interview. “So it’s great to be a part of the community from a property ownership standpoint and be able to bring that element of our business there.”
As the “Centennial mom” of 36 years, Keilin wore countless hats outside of her property manager role, including mediator, therapist, landlord and financial counselor, to name a few. On any given day, she interacts with an estimated 20-30 people desperately seeking affordable housing in a town where one would be hard-pressed to find a one-bedroom rental for less than $3,500 a month.
Four to five of Keilin’s 20-30 average daily exchanges are in-person visits to her front-facing Centennial office, which becomes “virtual” after June 1.
The remaining communication is phone calls to the office and repeated emails, Keilin said, noting that it’s “not uncommon” for hopeful tenants to email her several times a week for more than a year. While Centennial’s turnover rate has historically been low, “there’s hardly any since COVID.” Pre-COVID turnover equated to 40-50 units a year; in 2020, that number was 13.
Of course, this element of Keilin’s role solely addresses those trying to get in. She also assists the estimated 400 worker-bees who actually live there.
“Nurses, teachers, tons of service workers, law enforcement, government workers, media, real estate agents, retail, lawyers, bankers,” Keilin said. “I can’t think of any industry that hasn’t been represented at Centennial.”
Keilin’s even witnessed babies born at Centennial returning to live as adults — like Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy Anthony Todaro.
“Major life events happen to people here because they feel like they finally landed a spot to live long-term,” Keilin said. “Centennial is the lifeline of the town and the local economy.”