Basalt foreclosure creates challenge for downtown revitalization | AspenTimes.com

Basalt foreclosure creates challenge for downtown revitalization

Even as Basalt's economy shows signs of progress (see story at left), the recent foreclosure sale of a high-profile building indicates the challenges of revitalizing downtown.

The Riverside Plaza building, Lot A, at 255 Gold Rivers Court, was sold Sept. 17 in a foreclosure sale, according to the Eagle County public trustee's website.

Riverside Plaza Lot A LLC, a company affiliated with longtime Aspen real estate broker and developer Robert Ritchie, defaulted on a loan in the original amount of $9.8 million, according to the trustee's website. U.S. Bank National Association, the holder of the note, placed an initial bid of $2.3 million on the property and ultimately made a successful bid of $3.2 million, according to public records. No information was available on other bidders.

Ritchie's outfit had total indebtedness of $12.3 million, so there was a deficiency of $9.1 million after the sale, the trustee's website said.

Ritchie said he couldn't discuss the foreclosure when contacted recently by The Aspen Times.

The Riverside Plaza building that was foreclosed is 28,280 square feet, according to the Eagle County Assessor's Office. The lower floor houses a clothing store, gallery and bank, all of which remain operating. The upper two stories are office space that was vacated by Total Merchant Services, a credit-card processing company that employed 140 people. Lynne Mace, owner of Toklat Gallery, said she was directed about one year ago to send rent to a receiver appointed to oversee the property. She said she received a notice after the foreclosure sale of where to send rent for the new owner. She said there has been no effect on the lease thus far.

Recommended Stories For You

Ritchie was unable to find a replacement tenant after Total Merchant Services consolidated its offices at other locations in May 2013.

Riverside Plaza is one of the most visible developments in Basalt. The Lot A building is at the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue. Other buildings in the development weren't affected by the foreclosure.

In an issue unrelated to the foreclosure, longtime Basalt restaurant Cuvee World Bistro recently closed its doors in a ground-level space in an adjacent building at Riverside Plaza.

The foreclosure of the Lot A building at Riverside Plaza comes at a time when the town government, business groups and a residents' committee are working on plans to revitalize the downtown, which is plagued by commercial space vacancies.

Basalt Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Robin Waters said Basalt, like many places across the country, "is suffering the remnants" of the recession that hit in 2008. A foreclosure is usually an accumulation of several factors and something that develops over time, not overnight, she said.

"I don't see that as a current thing or something that reflects the circumstances of today," Waters said.

She noted that the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute broke ground this fall on a new office building and Innovation Center that will be completed next year. The institute's clients from around the world will visit the office.

The nonprofit Roaring Fork Conservancy aims to build an office and river center adjacent to the Rocky Mountain Institute building.

The chamber is focused on marketing efforts to bring shoppers and diners to all sections of Basalt, including downtown. The organization also is launching an economic development program that will be unveiled soon, Waters said.

While Basalt's downtown is lagging behind Willits Town Center in economic vitality, Waters said she believes downtown will soon show signs of improvement.

"So often when there is recovery, it doesn't come as a package," she said.

scondon@aspentimes.com