Landlords reaching a new low with rent spike |

Landlords reaching a new low with rent spike

Some of the same landlords behind the demise of The Red Onion tavern now are aiming to exploit one of Aspen’s last bastions of entrepreneurship, not to men­tion a zoning district that was created to protect locally-owned businesses.

Last week, the new owners of the Mill Street Commercial Center told its nearly two dozen tenants that their rents are being raised by as much as 30 percent, should they commit to leases that would take effect in September and run through August 2010. Or, the tenants could stay with their existing leases, which expire in October 2008, and run the risk of their contracts not being renewed. Tenants were given just a few days to decide.

The landlords ” Ron Garfield, Andrew Hecht, Timothy Presutti, Dou­glas Ostrover, Nikos Hecht and Koren­vaes Capital Partners ” are well within their legal rights to charge what they please. But what they did last week was nothing more than dirty pool. After all, these same tenants signed leases last year to stay through October 2008, and then last week were given just a few days to decide on an ultimatum.

We’re not talking about Prada and Gucci here.

Mill Street Commercial Center is home to such businesses as a video store, a laundromat and a martial arts studio, to name a few. One business, Aspen Tile, is looking at an annual rent spike of more than $ 50,000 with the pro­posed leases.

Located next to the Aspen post office, the center is part of the city’s Service-­Commercial- Industrial zone district, which the city describes this way: “The purpose … is to preserve and enhance locally-serving, primarily non-retail small business areas to ensure a more balanced permanent community; to pro­tect the few remaining such small busi­ness parks historically used primarily for light industrial uses, manufacturing, repair, storage and servicing of con­sumer goods, with limited retail, show­room, or customer reception areas.”

This rent spike violates the city’s stat­ed purpose for the SCI zone. These busi­nesses’ chances at survival are slim to none, which makes us question whether these landlords even care about a “more balanced permanent community.”

Meanwhile, the city’s hands are tied ” for now. But when this group comes to the city seeking variances and other exceptions for some ” mini-Obermeyer” development, we hope their feet are dan­gled over the fire. Then, for once, they’ll see how their tenants feel.