Downtown real estate deals in the making?
August 2, 2005
The sale of one downtown building closed Monday and other deals are reportedly in the making in Aspen’s hot real estate market.Pitkin County real estate sales are on a record pace, topping the $1 billion mark by the end of June, but it’s not just houses that are attracting attention.The Duvike Building on the Hyman Avenue mall sold for $3.8 million, according to documents filed Monday in the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorders Office.Two other downtown buildings are rumored to be under contract, though players in the deals are declining to comment.”I’m involved with a couple of partners, we’re trying to get a couple of properties,” confirmed one investor.The Duvike Building, which includes Zocalito Latin Bistro and RE/MAX among its tenants, was purchased by CM LLC from its previous owners, the George Vicenzi Trust, Albert Kern and William Dunaway, records show.
Vicenzi is also part owner in the building at the corner of Hyman Avenue and Spring Street, where the Wienerstube and Ajax Bike & Sports are located, but he declined to comment on rampant rumors of its pending sale.”We don’t like to give out any information until something’s definite,” he said. “If you own property, people are always making offers.”The building has been on the market, confirmed Dunaway, another of its owners.”Real estate is going like mad around here,” he said. “It’s hard to believe.”Rumors are also swirling about the pending sale of La Cocina, a popular restaurant run by longtime owner Nick Lebby.”There has been serious interest in La Cocina,” is all Lebby would offer Wednesday.The restaurant was briefly listed for sale last winter; local broker Karen Setterfield confirmed she had a listing contract for the property that expired at the end of June. She said she brought several offers for the property forward but isn’t involved in any recent dealings.
The city’s overhaul of zoning regulations, completed last spring, has helped spur interest in downtown properties by giving owners a clearer idea of what they’ll be allowed to do, according to Vicenzi. The new rules include some relaxations on height and floor area, particularly to allow for the construction of worker housing with redevelopment.”The rules are easier, but it’s still not easy to do a deal in Aspen,” said Ruth Kruger, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and a commercial real estate broker.Commercial properties are attracting attention, though.”I would say the market is very intense and demand for commercial property is intense,” Setterfield said.Kruger, who is seeking a tenant for the vacant Benton Building on East Hyman, next door to Little Annie’s Eating House, has been fielding calls from prospective buyers even though the property isn’t for sale.”Call me to lease it. Quit calling me and asking if it’s for sale,” she said.
“I have heard there are a number of buildings in play,” Kruger added. “I suspect that there’s a lot of money that has come out of the stock market in the last couple of years. Aspen is a very solid market to invest your money in.”It’s kind of a domino effect – the projects that have already been approved give people faith in the market,” Kruger said.Redevelopment of the Mother Lode is expected to begin in September, according to developer Doug Brown, who is among the investors who closed on the purchase of the Hyman Avenue restaurant last week for $3.75 million.The project includes an expansion of the historic building to include additional ground-floor commercial space and two free-market residences and two employee units on upper stories. Brown said he has talked to a couple of potential new operators of the Mother Lode, which is closed this summer. “We would love that to happen,” he said.Howard Ross, who formerly ran the restaurant and co-owned the property, has retired after 37 years in the restaurant business.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org