Aspen Athletic Club Building hits market for nearly $30M

Finished in 1976, building has last two penthouse options in downtown Aspen, broker says

The Aspen Athletic building, seen here Tuesday afternoon, went on the market recently for $29.95 million. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The downtown Aspen Athletic Club Building went on the market this month for $29.95 million and includes entitlements to build two penthouses on the top-floor space currently used by a fitness club.

The price tag includes the entire five-level, 27,732-square-foot condominium building; however, the top floor with 6,400 square feet of penthouse space and a rooftop deck also is being marketed individually for $15.95 million. Likewise, the building’s 21,332 square feet of commercial and office space — which includes the second floor, street level and subterranean space — is listed for sale at $14 million.

“An interesting fact about this is they are the last two penthouses in Aspen,” said broker Karen Setterfield of the Aspen realty firm Setterfield & Bright, which has the listing for the 720 E. Hyman Ave. property. “Unless they decide to change the rules.”

There is a limited supply of penthouses due to an ordinance the Aspen City Council adopted in 2012 that bans the construction of penthouses and condominiums in the downtown core.

That same year, the Aspen Athletic Club Building received historic-landmark designation by the City Council in exchange for benefits — including converting the third floor into two penthouses — through the city’s AspenModern program. The landmark distinction preserves the building’s exterior in its original version.

The sellers are motivated and the buyers will need to be, too: July 15 is the deadline to pull from the city the already-approved building permit for the penthouses, with construction to begin within six months, according to a marketing brochure for the property. If the building permit is not pulled by the deadline date, the penthouse entitlements will expire.The seller also could pull the building permit, Setterfield said, if the property does not sell by the deadline date. That building permit comes with a fee of $307,831, according to marketing material.

Permitted commercial uses include retail, restaurant, hotel, bed and breakfast, academic, arts and culture, and recreational, among others.

The sellers are Evan Christian and the family trust of the late John Martin. Martin and Christian, both of New Zealand, bought the property for $6.9 million in 2006, according to property records. Martin died suddenly Dec. 23 in New Zealand at the age of 69, according to an obituary.

Most of the building’s existing tenants use office space and are on month-to-month leases, with the exception of one. Jean Robert’s Gym, which uses the top floor and some basement space for its fitness facility, also rents month to month, according to the marketing brochure.

The gym will lose its top-floor space if the new owner elects to build penthouses, Setterfield said.

“We’re hoping to leave him a good place, and we’re not sure what that will look like but we will work on it,” Setterfield said.

Gym owner Jean Robert Barbette could not be reached for immediate comment Tuesday afternoon.

The mixed-use building was designed by architect Robin Molny, who also apprenticed under Frank Lloyd Wright. Molny designed the Hearthstone House on East Hyman Avenue and collaborated on the transformation of the 200 blocks of East Cooper and East Hyman avenues into outdoor pedestrian malls in the 1970s.

The Aspen Athletic Club building was completed in 1976.

“Robin Molny, a noted Aspen architect trained by Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the Aspen Athletic Club in addition to the Hearthstone House, pedestrian malls, and the Mason & Morse Building (heavily altered facade),” according to a 2012 document the city prepared for the American Planning Association’s Colorado office. “The Aspen Athletic Club is Molny’s only unaltered commercial building in Aspen. The architecture is characteristic of the Modern Movement with its flat roof, expression of building structure, large glazing walls, flat roof, simple form and minimal decorative features. The ground level blurs the line between interior and exterior space with large amounts of glass and mitred corners. The owner voluntarily participated in AspenModern to designate the building in exchange for development benefits to convert offices to residential on the third floor. Very minimal exterior changes were proposed.”