Isis: Next ‘affordable’ place to shop?
ASPEN The Isis Theatre could be the next place dedicated solely to locally owned businesses that offer affordable items.That’s the latest idea being knocked around by the Aspen City Council in an effort to save what has been known as the “SCI Zone” since 1975, when government officials created a section of town zoned specifically for service, commercial and industrial businesses.The SCI Zone, located north of Main Street and on each side of Mill Street, has been threatened over the years by escalating rent in other commercial parts of town, particularly the downtown commercial core. The going rate to rent commercial space in downtown Aspen hovers between $100 and $200 a square foot.As a result, the SCI Zone is nowhere near what officials intended it to be. There is a set list of locally serving businesses that are supposed to be in that area, which includes the properties around Clark’s Market and Obermeyer Place, amounting to about 1.5 acres of dedicated space that offers affordable rents. But over the years, other types of businesses have crept into the zone either through lax enforcement of the restricted uses or exceptions made by previous city administrations.The City Council on Monday directed staff to identify which businesses are not legal and force them out, as well as to prohibit office uses and find more spaces throughout downtown that could be zoned SCI.A suggestion made by former City Council candidate Andrew Kole to approach the Isis owners and see if City Hall can reach a deal to lease to, or subsidize, locally serving commercial and retail businesses in 3,500 square feet on the theater’s street level was well-received by the council.The space is dedicated for retail and has yet to be rented, Kole said, adding the owners are asking $125 a square foot. City officials hope that the price would be dropped in some sort of long-term deal yet to be hashed out.”I think it would be a mistake not to initiate the discussion,” said City Councilman Steve Skadron.
With many lingering questions still surrounding the fate of Aspen’s historic Old Powerhouse, City Council decided during Monday’s work session to hold off on providing staff direction on moving the preservation project forward until more information can be presented.