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Isis price tag raises brows

Janet Urquhart

Sam Houston’s offer to sell the Isis Theatre to the community for $12 million has raised a few eyebrows in the Aspen real estate community.

Houston, the managing member of a limited liability corporation that owns the Hopkins Avenue property, said the $12 million price tag is non-negotiable and predicted he could “easily” find a buyer for the property at $17 million. The partnership, Isis LLC, is willing to sell the theater to the community for the lower price if members can write off the $5 million difference as a tax deduction, he said.

“There’s absolutely no way,” said a local real estate expert regarding the $17 million price. “I think he is wildly optimistic.”

Even the $12 million price is nearly twice the value assigned to the building by the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office. “I think he’s pretty aggressive at that price, too,” said the expert, who asked not to be identified.

According to assessor Tom Isaac, his office has assessed the five-screen theater’s actual, or market, value at $6.34 million, based on market data available as of June 30, 1998. The building will be revalued this May based on sales of similar properties as of June 30, 2000.

That reassessment will no doubt take into account the April 2000 sale of the nearby Chitwood Plaza building at the corner of Mill and Main streets.

Chitwood Plaza, which houses three restaurants including The Cantina on the ground level and two floors of office space, was purchased for $8.7 million by a Florida couple, according to assessor’s office records.

The Chitwood building includes more than 23,000 square feet of above-grade space, according to the assessor’s records. About half of the 21,664-square-foot Isis is subgrade space, the records indicate.

“It [the Isis] is a big building, but a lot of it is basement,” the expert said. “There’s no question in my mind which one you’d rather have.”

Isis LLC purchased the Isis, formerly an old, one-screen theater, from Dominic and Kitty Linza in March 1997 for $3.3 million, according to records in the county Clerk and Recorder’s Office. The owners then embarked on a massive redevelopment of the building to create a five-screen movie house with three screens in the basement and two larger screens on the ground floor. A free-market condo and two three-bedroom employee units are located on the third floor.

The building permit application filed by contractor Shaw Construction for the renovation estimated the cost of the construction project at $3.8 million.

In late 1999, Isis LLC sold the free-market condo atop the building to Brad Krevoy for $1.27 million, transaction records indicate. Krevoy is chairman of Resort Theaters of America, which operated the renovated theater until the company pulled its operation out of Aspen last month.

The move has sparked a community effort to explore options for saving the building as a theater that could also provide a venue for a range of arts-related local groups.

It was at a town meeting on saving the Isis last week that Houston indicated Isis LLC is willing to sell the property to a consortium of local interests for $12 million. As an alternative, he said the owners would pursue plans to convert the main level of the building to retail space and attempt to preserve the three smaller theater screens on the lower level.

Houston said the Isis owners took out a $5.5 million mortgage for the Isis, but he declined to reveal how much the partnership has invested in the property altogether.

He was out of town and could not be reached for comment Friday.

The city is working with local groups, like Aspen Filmfest, to explore a joint public/private venture to preserve the Isis. City officials initially considered obtaining an appraisal of the property but decided that expense is premature until plans are further along, according to Mayor Rachel Richards.

Meanwhile, local radio talk show host Andrew Kole has said he plans to get a question on the May ballot that proposes a new tax to fund a bond issue to buy the Isis at a purchase price not to exceed $12 million.


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