$3.8M deal to sell city of Aspen’s West End house falls through
A West End house that the city of Aspen owns is still up for sale after a prospective buyer walked away from his offer this spring.
Henry Lambert and his business partner, Carey Bond, were under contract with the city to purchase the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house at 312 W. Hyman Ave. for $3.8 million.
But after they had one meeting in front of the city’s historic preservation commission in April to get an addition approved, they realized it would require an extensive review process and didn’t want to deviate from their plans.
So they walked away from the contract and withdrew their application.
“We fell in love with that house and made up a plan to make it economically viable so we could just break even,” Lambert said Tuesday. “It’s kind of a shame.”
He noted that he and Bond are in the renovation and restoration business; they redeveloped two houses on West Hopkins Avenue and others in New Orleans, where they live primarily.
The city bought the property in 2007 for $3.5 million and historically designated it out of concern that the owner would demolish it.
Historic preservation officials noted the home’s architecture reflects the history of Aspen as it became a ski resort. The chalet-style, two-story house was built in 1954, according to Amy Simon, the city’s historic preservation officer.
It was used for workforce housing for several years, and has been empty for the past two years while it’s on the market.
The original asking price was almost $4.9 million.
Andrew Ernemann, a real estate broker that represents the city, said it is still listed at $3.75 million.
The house cannot be torn down or significantly altered. But additional square footage is allowed above and below ground.
In a letter to the preservation commission in March, Lambert wrote that the house would continue its small and non-competitive footprint in the Aspen housing market.
“Nothing insures (sic) preservation more than being wanted and desirable,” he wrote. “Being small and unwanted and vacant is the greatest threat to a building’s survival. Laws and rules are not as effective as being improved, and lived in.”
At their April 24 meeting, commission members expressed concerns about preserving the integrity of the back of the house, and the design compatibility between the historic resource and the new two-story addition.
The commission followed Simon’s recommendation to further study the plan.
According to the minutes of that April meeting, Doug Rager, the architect for the applicants, said he agreed with staff and said, “It’s a tough one because this is what the applicants think they need and want and asked me to come to you. I got my answer, so I think we will leave it on the books for now. I suspect they will not go forward with the purchase and I’ve been trying to lecture them that this wouldn’t fly, but here we are now.”
Simon said this week that it’s normal for a project to take a couple of hearings and adjustments before getting approval from HPC.
Ernemann said he has had interest in the property from potential buyers and continues to show it, adding that the historic designation is its biggest asset, but it also requires patience in the review process.
“It can be arduous and time-consuming but that is what makes it an appealing neighborhood, just like the rest of Aspen,” Ernemann said.
Scott Miller, the city’s interim city manager and public works director, said he plans to bring the property to Aspen City Council for further direction on what its future should be.