Polo leases former Banana Republic | AspenTimes.com

Polo leases former Banana Republic

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer

Polo Ralph Lauren will move into the former Banana Republic space in the Independence Square building under a lease finalized Tuesday, according to downtown businessman Harley Baldwin, who brokered the deal.They plan to do one of their flagship national stores, Baldwin said. I certainly thought that they were perfect for the site.Banana Republic vacated the space last October, leaving the high-profile store on the corner of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue empty. Aspen-based M&W Properties owns the building.Three Gucci-owned boutiques Yves Saint Laurent, Boucheron and Boutega Veneta had initially been lined up to take over the space following Banana Republics departure, but Gucci backed away from the deal despite its 10-year lease of the space.Polo, which currently operates a store in the Ajax Mountain Building on Durant Avenue, has signed a 10-year lease for its new quarters with M&W, according to Baldwin, though he declined to reveal any specifics of the deal.The 7,800-square-foot space spread over two floors in the historic Independence Square building is about triple the size of the existing Polo store, Baldwin estimated. Polo is already making plans to remodel the space and would like to move in this summer, but will definitely be in by next Christmas, he said.Polo Ralph Lauren was among three retailers bidding for the space in what Baldwin termed spirited negotiations.Basically, for the first time in awhile, theres a lot of good news about commercial activity in Aspen, with major players seeing opportunities for retail in Aspen, he said.In a couple of unrelated moves, Baldwin said Louis Vuitton plans to vacate the Brand Building, which Baldwin owns, for 3,000 square feet on Mill Street where it will triple its store space.The Louis Vuitton move will allow Christian Dior to double the size of its boutique in the Brand Building.Aspen has for years had the best shopping between Chicago and L.A., declared Baldwin, the landlord to a number of Aspens high-end, designer boutiques, including Gucci.Still, some Aspenites have decried the influx of pricey boutiques and the loss of more affordable places to shop, such as Banana Republic and Eddie Bauer, which also pulled out of Aspen last year.Ironically, locals were upset when those kinds of national chains first set up shop in Aspen, signaling the changeover from small mom-and-pop stores to corporations that could afford higher rents.Even some designer shops have pulled up stakes in Aspen, though. Chanel, one of Polos neighbors in the Ajax Mountain Building, announced last fall that it would leave Aspen after a decade here.Nooris Collection has leased the Chanel space and plans to move in this April, a Nooris spokesperson said.[Janet Urquharts e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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