City officials will be reaching out to the property owners of the North Mill Street Commercial Center to see if a collaboration is possible in preserving some of Aspen’s last service-oriented businesses, while making way for a mix of new retail and office space.
The shopping center, located at 465 N. Mill St., houses nearly 20 businesses, including a coin laundromat, a bike shop, shipping services and a steel welder, that operate under Service-Industrial-Commericial zoning, or SCI. The city is considering rewriting SCI so that a broader range of businesses can occupy the spaces. Existing SCI tenants expect that a rewrite will propel a redevelopment project at the center, which is owned by a collection of seven limited-liability companies headed by such Aspen businessmen as Andrew Hecht, Ronald Garfield and Steven Hansen.
At Monday’s work session, council member Art Daily said that the city should approach the owners before any hard redevelopment plans are in place, which will allow for a much smoother process. That way, he said, the end product will be something the community wants and needs.
“The time to approach them is certainly now, rather than later,” Daily said. “I’d rather do it as a collaborative approach, rather than responding to a full-blown development application.”
There have not been any formal talks between the city and the developer, but council member Adam Frisch said there is a neutral desire to engage in plans for a potential solution.
Community Development Director Chris Bendon agreed that talks should begin sooner rather than later.
“At some point, something is going to happen (with SCI), and we’re either part of that, or we’re reacting to that,” Bendon said.
The public-private collaboration would be similar to the development at Obermeyer Place, which also includes SCI zoning. Since Obermeyer was constructed, its SCI spaces have struggled to find tenants, some of which have been mostly vacant since inception.
Mayor Steve Skadron said SCI is an opportunity for the council to do something extraordinary. Daily agreed, saying they need to determine which shops need to be incentivized, so that Aspen ends up with products it needs. What the council wants to avoid, Frisch said, is a redevelopment where niche services are replaced by the types of shops that already exist in Aspen, such as yoga studios, flower shops and high-end retail.
In other business
The city is considering altering the land-use agreement for the basement at 508 E. Cooper St., a dormant commercial space located in the same building that used to house Cooper Street Pier, officials said Monday.
The current agreement calls for an affordable restaurant to open up in the space, but the city is considering amending the deed restrictions, so that retail could also be an option.