Romero, partners buy downtown Basalt building for $750,000 | AspenTimes.com

Romero, partners buy downtown Basalt building for $750,000

The windows of the building at 208 Midland Ave. in Basalt are covered with paper, obscuring work inside. The downtown building sold recently for $750,000.

For the second time in two months, a prominent local company has invested in downtown Basalt real estate.

A company affiliated with Snowmass Village businessman and former Aspen City Councilman Dwayne Romero purchased a commercial building Jan. 22 at 208 Midland Ave., Basalt's main street.

TRG 208 Midland LLC purchased the building for $750,000, according to the Eagle County assessor's website. The seller was Thomas N. Hubbard Bypass Trust, with Loretta W. Hubbard as trustee. The last time the building changed hands was September 1973 when there was a sale for $45,000, according to the assessor's website.

The building was the former home of Midland Clothing, a longtime retailer that relocated to Willits Town Center.

“I think it shows that properties that are priced right for the market are going to move.”Bennett BramsonRealtor

The building is in the center of Basalt's commercial core. The ground-floor commercial space is 1,966 square feet. An upstairs space, which can be used for residential or commercial uses, is 1,606 square feet. The sale penned out to $210 per square foot.

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The sale comes on the heels of Aspen Skiing Co.'s purchase in December of a building at 255 Gold River Court in Riverside Plaza. That site is along Two Rivers Road, roughly a block from the Midland Avenue building that just sold.

Skico is going to relocate some of its offices to the upper two stories of the 28,230-square-foot building. The bottom floor will remain for retail uses.

The future of the Midland Avenue building sold Jan. 22 is unknown. It's been vacant for 18 months. Buyer TRG 208 Midland LLC is registered with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, with an address at 711 E. Valley Road, Suite 103. That is the home of the Romero Group and Beach Resource Management, a property-management firm that Romero and partners purchased. Romero is a former president of Related Colorado, the owner of much of the property at Snowmass Base Village. One of his former colleagues at Related, Shawn Gleason, is listed as the registered agent for TRG 208 Midland LLC.

Romero and Gleason didn't return messages seeking comment about the purchase Monday. The windows of the building are covered with brown paper. There is no apparent activity inside, but the owners have secured a demolition permit for some interior work from the town of Basalt.

The Eagle County Assessor's Office records showed the value of the Midland property was recovering after a drastic fall during the recession. The actual value of the property was gauged to be $1.27 million when the recession hit. It fell to $777,720 during the 2011-12 reappraisal, bottomed out at $504,610 during the 2013-14 reappraisal and was most recently valued at $626,080 by Eagle County. The government appraisals typically lag behind market values.

Bennett Bramson, a real estate agent with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby's International Realty who specializes in Basalt commercial property, said the sale price seemed fair.

"I think it shows that properties that are priced right for the market are going to move," he said. Some property sellers are asking for $400 per square foot, nearly double what 208 Midland Ave. sold for, he noted. The Midland property was initially listed for $950,000, Bramson said, so the selling price was substantially discounted.

The nearby Cafe Bernard building at 200 Midland Ave. is on the market for $585,000, or about $336 per square foot.

Bramson said the vacancy rate in downtown Basalt has become stable in recent months. While some businesses are closing shop, others are taking their place, he said. Other businesses relocate, looking for a more visible space or cheaper rent.

"There's lots of mobility," Bramson said.

Some highly visible spaces remain vacant, such as the former Midland Avenue space near Two Rivers Cafe occupied by Corky Woods, the former Cuvee space in Riverside Plaza, the former Kitchen Store space on Basalt Center Circle and several spaces in the Riverwalk buildings.

Bramson said he believes the opening of the Skico offices and temporary relocation of many of Pitkin County's offices at the former Bristlecone Sports site by the Basalt Store will generate substantially more foot traffic in Basalt, particularly with people going out for lunch and after work.

The Rocky Mountain Institute also opened its Innovation Center near downtown.

"Those are the kind of things that will help," Bramson said, referring to downtown vitality.

It remains to be seen if Basalt can support an expanded retail environment downtown, he said. Retail in general is facing hurdles, with ever-increasing competition online. Within the past month, national chain Pier 1 closed its store at Glenwood Meadows and at other locations. Sports Authority Inc. has reduced executive staff and is assessing closures of scores of stores nationwide.

Locally, the Basalt downtown business core faces competition from Willits Town Center, where Whole Foods is located, and Orchard Plaza, where City Market is located. Midland Clothing, Basalt Bike and Ski, and Bristlecone Mountain Sports relocated from downtown sites to Willits.

Bramson estimated the downtown commercial vacancy rate at 35 to 40 percent. That's down from about 60 percent at the height of the recession, he said.

One way to improve that could be removing a requirement that ground-floor spaces must be retail and restaurant, Bramson said. He said a number of small nooks and crannies might be attractive for people who want to open offices. The Basalt Town Council voted in May 2009 to restrict Midland Avenue ground-floor spaces for retail and restaurant. The fear at the time was that real estate firms and other offices could dominate downtown and chip away at its character. Existing offices are exempt, and office space can be retained if a replacement is found quickly after a business leaves.

Bramson said he has urged some town officials to consider an experiment of granting leases for as long as three years for offices to see if it reduces vacancy rates.

Town Manager Mike Scanlon said he doesn't think ground-floor spaces would appeal to people looking for office space. There are office opportunities in upper stories of buildings at a cheaper price, he said. Scanlon said he believes Basalt's commercial vacancy rate fell drastically with Skico's purchase of the Riverside Plaza space, Pitkin County's commitment to a different large space and the purchase of 208 Midland Ave.

Bramson identified lack of parking as a looming issue for downtown if business continues to improve.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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