City eyes Aspen Mini-Storage for $11M

People unload a truck at Aspen Mini Storage in the Airport Business Center on Thursday, October 3, 2019. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The city of Aspen is poised to buy a 3-acre parcel in the Aspen Business Center for $11 million to improve access to the adjacent lumberyard property slated for affordable housing.

Aspen City Council on Tuesday is being asked to consider a contract to purchase the Aspen Mini-Storage property on the consent agenda, which requires no discussion unless an elected official requests it to be pulled for further conversation.

City Manager Sara Ott signed the purchase contract Sept. 23 and set aside $550,000 in earnest money that is currently in an escrow account.

The contract automatically terminates if notice of approval by council is not provided 31 days after it was signed.

An appraisal has not yet been done on the property, which has an actual value of $7.9 million, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office.

It was purchased in 2005 for $5.75 million, according to the assessor’s records.

An appraisal will be conducted prior to closing, as will an environmental study, said Chris Everson, the city’s affordable housing project manager.

“The city has numerous contingencies in the contract to terminate it,” he said.

The purchase price was based on analysis by city staff and the municipal government’s real estate broker, Andrew Ernemann, as well as nearby comparables and what the city has paid for other land in years past.

The price also factors in cash flows for the existing Aspen Mini-Storage business, which is relevant to establish how the open market would value the property, according to Everson.

Susanne Vordernberg Clark, whose husband John Clark died in June, owns the land and business.

It was earlier this summer that city officials learned that the Clarks were interested in selling and brought the deal to council in an executive session in August, and then subsequent closed-door sessions in recent weeks.

The property is key to the city’s plans to build affordable housing units on the adjacent lumberyard parcel, which is roughly 7 acres.

The city bought that property, known in 2007 as BMC West, for $18.25 million with no appraisal.

After public criticism, the city conducted an appraisal and it was determined that it was worth $1.45 million less than what the city paid for it.

The mini storage parcel would provide access to the future development and would better alleviate concerns related to the Colorado Access Traffic Control Plan onto Highway 82.

Everson said having 10 acres in the area gives the city more flexibility into its planning.

“I think it would be a big mistake to pre-program the area,” he said, noting that there are major development projects in the works along that corridor, including additional housing at Burlingame Ranch, Colorado Mountain College and Aspen Fire Protection District’s North Forty station, as well as a redeveloped and expanded airport.

Everson said the city will continue to hold meetings, open houses and roundtable discussions with the public about the evolving housing plans and will further its efforts with community outreach on the project.

Harbert Lumber Co., which currently leases the property from the city for $50,000 a month, has a lease through 2025. The city can terminate that lease with 30 months’ notice, according to Everson.

The proposal for the mini storage property is that the city and the business’s current manager would manage the ongoing operation, and the leases with tenants would be on the same schedule as the existing one for the lumberyard. The monthly revenue from the tenant leases is approximately $60,000 a month, according to Everson.


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