Hunt poised to buy Red Onion building for $18 million |

Hunt poised to buy Red Onion building for $18 million

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Developer Mark Hunt confirmed Thursday he has the Red Onion building under contract for purchase. He said he expects the $18 million deal to close Oct. 1.

The Cooper Avenue building occupied by The Red Onion restaurant, a yoga studio, a ski-apparel shop, apartment units and office space is under contract to be purchased by developer Mark Hunt.

Hunt confirmed Thursday he has negotiated a deal to buy the property for $18 million. The sale is scheduled to close Oct. 1, he said. A consortium of local business people — including Aspen attorneys Ron Garfield and Andrew Hecht, as well as his son Nikos, and Steven Hansen — currently own the property, which sits on 9,000 square feet of land.

With the Red Onion building added to his stable of properties, Hunt will deepen his ownership on the 400 block of the Cooper Avenue mall. There, he also owns the Bidwell Building, located next to the Red Onion building. He also has both the Casa Tua building and the salmon-colored structure next to it under contract for purchase.

“It’s just a great block,” Hunt said.

It’s also a block that’s in for a number of changes if Hunt follows through with his plans:

• On Monday, Aspen City Council will get a look at Hunt’s proposal for the 447 E. Cooper Ave. building located next to Casa Tua. The Historic Preservation Commission has given conceptual approval to Hunt’s plans to raze and replace it with a 28-foot-high, 22,000-square-foot, two-story building that would be strictly commercial. It is the City Council’s call whether to let the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval stand or call up Hunt’s land-use application for review. If the council opts out, the process will be overseen by the Preservation Commission.

• Hunt’s application to demolish and replace the Bidwell Building, which was built in 1965 and designed by Aspen visionary Fritz Benedict, goes to the Historic Preservation Committee on Wednesday. The corner building is home to Kemo Sabe, Ryno’s Pub & Pizzeria restaurant and six other tenants.

As for Hunt’s plans for the Red Onion building, he said he’s mulling a few options. The part of the building occupied by the Aspen Shakti Shala yoga studio allows for the construction of a penthouse on top of it.

But, Hunt said, “I don’t really do penthouses.”

“I’m exploring my plans,” he said. “And it might be trickier with Referendum 1.”

In May, Aspen voters passed Referendum 1, which is an amendment to the Aspen Home Rule Charter and strips the City Council’s ability to grant variances on height, mass, parking and affordable housing without a public vote.

Hunt said if obstacles prevent him from redeveloping the Red Onion building — some parts are historic, others aren’t — he’ll stick with the penthouse.

“If this triggers a public vote, I’ll just build a penthouse,” he said, declining to elaborate on what his plans are for the building.

Hunt, who is engaged in a campaign to persuade Aspen voters to approve his Base2 Lodge project at the Conoco service station location on Main Street in the November election, also unloaded a downtown building last week.

Hunt sold the two-story, 3,920-square-foot property at 409 E. Hyman Ave., which is home to New York Pizza and the Green Dragon marijuana dispensary, for $5 million. He bought it in July 2014 for $4.75 million.

“There were just limited opportunities there,” he said.