Aspen Legacy properties back on the market for $20 million

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Published: Rustin Gudim Special to The Aspen Times

ASPEN – A major collection of properties in Aspen’s downtown core is being aggressively marketed starting Friday – at a price nearly 50 percent lower than what was sought before the recession – in an effort to resolve a foreclosure action.

The Aspen Legacy properties are back on the market after a receiver was appointed to oversee their operation and disposition. The properties, which include the Little Annie’s building, the former Huntsman Gallery building and a parking lot at the intersection of East Hyman Avenue and Hunter Street, are listed for $19.9 million. The asking price on the same properties was $39 million in August 2007.

Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols on Monday appointed Denver attorney David S. Cohen as receiver of the properties as part of the foreclosure case.

The lender, Downtown Aspen Investments LLC, claims the Dingilian family, owners of the Aspen Legacy properties, defaulted on a loan that has a current balance of $13.8 million. A foreclosure sale is scheduled Jan. 4, 2011.

“The goal of the receivership is to accomplish either a sale or refinance prior to that event,” Cohen said.

Downtown Aspen Investments (DAI) foreclosed on the property earlier this summer. It’s standard for a receiver to be appointed to oversee the property in a foreclosure dispute to protect and preserve the property value.

Cohen worked with the lender and receiver after his appointment to craft an agreement to retain R. Mark Wyman, managing director of the Aspen-Snowmass office of the Fleisher Co., as the listing broker for the properties.

Wyman said he will handle all matters and negotiations related to the sale of the properties. He initially got the listing three years ago when the Dingilian family decided to sell.

The parties also agreed on the nearly $20 million asking price at the recommendation of Wyman. The properties will be listed in the Aspen-Glenwood Springs Multiple Listing Service starting Friday – increasing their exposure and “offering to participating brokers a commission if they produce a buyer who closes on the purchase,” Wyman said. The properties hadn’t been listed in the MLS since spring 2009, he said.

The properties most recently were listed for sale in the MLS at $31 million, which didn’t reflect the price erosion Aspen property has undergone during the economic downturn, according to Wyman. He is more comfortable with the asking price of $19.9 million. The property was appraised last month at $23.8 million, so Wyman feels the asking price is a significant discount.

“It shows a substantial change in expectations,” he said. “The market will tell us if it’s substantial enough.”

As receiver, Cohen will determine if offers for the property are reasonable. That removes the emotional connection that the Dingilians have with the property, Wyman said. The family has owned the parking lot since the 1960s and acquired the adjacent building earlier this decade.

“During my discussions with Mr. Cohen and the other parties I sensed a seriousness of intent about the sale of the property that prospective purchasers are sure to pick up on and deeply appreciate,” Wyman said.

This isn’t another of the distressed sale cases that have become common in the Roaring Fork Valley, Wyman said. DAI is a private lender that isn’t subject to regulation by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., so it doesn’t regularly face pressure to move a non-performing asset off its books, Wyman said. The firm is also a major property owner in the valley.

The lender “appears comfortable with the prospect of owning the property at its current loan balance of $13.8 million in the event that the property doesn’t sell within a reasonable period of time or at the foreclosure sale,” Cohen said in a prepared statement.

Wyman negotiated in March with a buyer that was willing to pay $20 million. The owner declined the offer, but it shows the unique property still attracts attention even with the lagging performance of the commercial and development property sectors, Wyman said.

The Aspen Legacy properties together comprise about 15,000 square feet of land. They are zoned as commercial core, which would allow retail and restaurant development on the ground floor, and office and residential development on the upper two floors. The Aspen City Council would take up development approvals.