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Aspen Comedy Club space going retail

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Plans are under way to transform the now defunct Aspen Comedy Club space on Cooper Avenue into five retail shops.

Peter Fornell said his brother-in-law, John Cooper, has the 3,700-square-foot space at 520 E. Cooper Ave. under contract. He is buying the property from Dave Edgar, who bought it in 2006 for $2 million and opened the Texas Reds barbecue eatery before converting it into a comedy club, which closed earlier this month.

Fornell, who is representing Cooper, said the property is under contract for $2.5 million. Edgar wanted $2.6 million.



“The closing date is April 18, and we’re through due diligence,” Fornell said Tuesday. “There is no chance of us backing out.”

Fornell said he and Cooper plan to redevelop the space ” which for the past couple of decades traditionally has housed restaurants ” into five retail spaces ranging in size from 300 to 650 square feet.




The location, which is below street level, is thought of by many in the business community as a jinxed space.

“It seems to fail and fail and fail with the restaurants down there,” Fornell said.

Fornell said he wants to reconfigure the space so a stairwell leads directly off the sidewalk to a courtyard and a 12-foot-wide atrium area, which would provide access to the retail shops. A retractable glass front door will be installed at the entrance of the indoor area. Fornell envisions one of the spaces to be used for light food service, possibly a noodle bar.

Fornell said by renting the spaces from as low as $1,800 to as much as $4,200 a month, he and Cooper can make the plan financially viable. That puts the square-footage rate in the mid-$70 range.

“It was a big nut to crack because of how big the space is and asking for that much rent,” Fornell said. “This way, I don’t have to put all of my eggs in one basket.”

About 1,000 square feet will be taken out of the equation for the atrium, leaving about 2,700 net leasable space. Fornell said he plans to drop the space 2 feet lower to make the ceilings higher.

But first, Fornell will have to get out from beneath a city moratorium that forbids the issuance of building permits in the commercial core zone district. The moratorium is scheduled to expire June 12, but the City Council is expected to extend it for another six months.

The moratorium was put in place while the City Council decides on how to regulate the commercial mix downtown so there are locally-serving businesses and not all high-end retail shops. City Hall is working with a consultant in developing potential legislative options.

Fornell approached the City Council on Monday night to ask how he might be able to get an exemption from the moratorium. He provided the council with a conceptual drawing of the plans and quickly described his idea, which was met with some interest by the council.

“It sounds very interesting, Peter,” said Mayor Mick Ireland, who directed him to speak with Community Development Director Chris Bendon about a possible exemption.

Bendon said a few dozen exemptions have been made for downtown properties since the moratorium went into effect in December 2006.

Fornell said he was encouraged by the council’s reaction and believes his plan will fit the bill, especially if the local government is aiming for affordable places to shop.

“I think the spaces themselves will dictate mid-level prices,” he said. “I think we have a good plan.”

Cooper lives in Missouri and owns a family wholesale plumbing business. He is a part-time Aspen resident, Fornell said.

csack@aspentimes.com

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