Isis deal closes door on changes
October 11, 2006
The closing date to buy the Isis Theatre isn’t until December, but when the ink dries, the building and most of its uses will be set in stone.This week, the city announced that it has helped ensure financing for the privately run Isis Property Group LLC and the nonprofit Aspen Filmfest to buy the theater. The penthouse on top of the building is already privately owned and is not part of the sale.In brokering the deal, the City Council wanted to save as many theaters as possible, prevent any increases in the building’s height and make sure the city itself didn’t put any money into it, said City Manager Steve Barwick. The agreement among the three parties would accomplish all three of those goals.
According to the deal on the table, a number of restrictions will apply to the structure once the sale takes place, regardless of whether the building, or portions of it, change hands again. The net result is that the external shape of the building shouldn’t change, except that a “notch” on the southeast corner, near the fire station, might be filled in.Additionally, the theaters will be “required to stay theaters as long as the theater business is viable,” Barwick said. And should American moviehouses ever go the way of the dinosaur, that part of the building will “have to remain a public-gathering place, and the City Council will have some input” on what that might be.Permanent restrictions
The two affordable-housing apartments that already exist in the building must remain affordable-housing units, regardless of any future changes in ownership, Barwick said. It’s not yet clear whether they will be rented through the housing office’s lottery or if the building’s employees will have first dibs, but they cannot be sold or rented as free-market units.The Isis Group will take possession of the western portion of the main floor and remodel it to become a midpriced retail space. That condition is also attached to the property, not the owners, Barwick said, so “they could sell it off, but all of the restrictions run with the land.” He said there’s some talk of building a mezzanine within that space, but that it wouldn’t affect the external structure of the building.Because the Isis Group’s new use will generate employees, the company is required to add to the city’s affordable-housing pool. It will pay cash to the city in lieu of building units at the theater, however, to avoid adding on to the building.
“City Council didn’t want any more building on site,” Barwick said.Filmfest will take over the eastern portion of the ground floor, near the fire station, and the basement, preserving four of the building’s five theaters. Although the nonprofit will have to remodel the space – moving the main entrance and the ground-floor concessions from the west side of the lobby – it must maintain the four theaters. Since it’s not generating any new employees, Filmfest is not required to add any affordable-housing units to the city’s pool.A number of details remain for the parties to work out, but if all goes as planned, they will sign the deal at the end of the year.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org