Broker: Aspen commercial property gaining attraction from outsiders

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Mark Hunt has Seguin Building, which houses the Aspen Brewing Co., Aspen Over Easy and the Square Grouper, under contract to sell. The structure is located at 304 E. Hopkins Ave.
Aubree Dallas/The Aspen Times |

Expect to see more national and international investors gobbling up Aspen commercial space in the coming years.

That was the upshot of commercial broker Lex Tarumianz’s presentation to a packed audience at Mountain Chalet on Thursday for the Aspen Business Luncheon, organized by Todd Shaver.

“Historically, Aspen (downtown commercial property) has been made up of a few investors,” Tarumianz said. “They’ve bought in, and they don’t have plans to sell. That dynamic is starting to change.”

Tarumianz said he is seeing a shift to “more national and international and less local” commercial buyers.

“I think Aspen commercial real estate in the long term is a great investment, as do a lot of these sophisticated national investors,” he said.

Chicago developer Mark Hunt once was one of those outside investors, though he has lived in Aspen for the past few years. In the past three years, Hunt has pumped more than $100 million into downtown Aspen commercial properties, but he has a downtown property under contract to sell — the Seguin Building at 304 E. Hopkins Ave.

Hunt, who couldn’t be reached for comment, plans to sell the building in the $5 million to $6 million range, Tarumianz said. Hunt bought the restaurant-row building, which houses Aspen Brewing Co., Aspen Over Easy and Square Grouper, for $4.25 million in May 2013.

Hunt also has the Casa Tua building, 403 Galena St., and the salmon-colored building next door, 447 E. Cooper Ave., under contract to buy. Those two deals won’t close until he gets redevelopment approvals from the Aspen City Council, Tarumianz said.

Tarumianz noted that New York City-based Thor Equities, which bought the downtown Boogie’s building last year for $27.5 million, also has the building at 228 S. Mill St., which is occupied by the Aspen Art Gallery, under contract to acquire.

The 7,820-square-foot Mountain Forge Building also is under contract, Tarumianz said. The purchase price is close to the $8.5 million listing for the 230 E. Hopkins Ave. building, he said.

Broker Karen Setterfield, who has the Mountain Forge listing, said she expects the sale to close in mid-March. She declined to identify the buyer.

Tarumianz also said he’s seeing a trend of investors eyeing property on the fringe of downtown, which includes mixed-use zoning, in large part because of the City Council’s prohibition on new penthouses in the core. He noted that the buyer of the Mountain Forge Building plans to add residential on the top floor. Setterfield said she could not discuss plans for the building.

What Tarumianz called the “epicenter” of downtown commercial property, however, remains the 500 block of Galena Street and two blocks of South Mill Street. Both streets get large amounts of foot traffic and point to Aspen Mountain.