Aspen developer Mark Hunt buys Isis retail space, worker housing for $13 million

A man walks by the Isis building in Aspen on Friday, November 8, 2019. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Limited liability companies under developer Mark Hunt’s control combined to spend more than $21 million in October on commercial property in downtown Aspen.

Hunt’s Isis Aspen Holdings LLC acquired two retail spaces and two deed-restricted housing units, all located in the Isis Theatre building at 406 E. Hopkins Ave., for $13.05 million in a deal recorded Oct. 25 by the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. Another Hunt LLC, 516 East Hyman Avenue, bought a 6,150-square-foot building at the same address for $8 million Oct. 1.

The Isis building’s four movie theaters were not included in the deal, and Hunt said Friday he has no plans to pursue them.

“Literally, what you see is what you get,” he said, also noting there are no designs to redevelop the newly acquired property.

The purchase includes the ground-level retailers Peter Lik Aspen, which is a fine art gallery, and women’s clothing and accessories shop Free People, both of which take up space in the 1,700- to 1,900-square-foot range. Both retailers have multiple years remaining on their leases, Hunt said. The two upstairs worker-housing units are both in the 1,150-square-foot range.

“I like the building and I like the space,” Hunt said, adding he had previously expressed his interest in the property to Courtney Lord, a partner with Isis Retail Group.

It was Isis Retail Group, along with what was then called Aspen FilmFest, a nonprofit, that formed a public-private partnership with the city of Aspen in October 2006.

The partnership, born out of concern the movie house would close, resulted in the purchase of the entire Isis building for $7.5 million. Four of the five theaters were preserved — one on the ground level, three downstairs. The fifth theater, as well as part of the lobby space, was converted to retail space.

The city enabled the deal by issuing 30-year certificates of participation, or COPs, to attract investors to back the acquisition of the property; the property secured the investments.

Both the Isis Retail Group and what’s now called Aspen Film, which produces short- and full-length film festivals, have been making monthly lease payments as tenants of the city-controlled building.

Isis Retail Group had sublet its space to the two retailers, while Aspen Film has leased the movie-theater space to Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Theatres, which runs the Isis Theatre business. Aspen Film also has used the venue for its own programming.

The payments have gone toward the balance on the COPs, City Attorney Jim True told City Council during a discussion about the matter at their Sept. 23 meeting. Isis Retail Group told the city earlier this year it planned to sell its interest in the building after paying its remaining $4.46 million owed to the city, True said. Aspen Film has a balance of $2.03 million.

“What’s happening is two-thirds of the COPs will be sold off, Isis Retail Group will sell to a third party,” True told the council.

The city had the right of first refusal and elected not to buy Isis Retail Group’s portion, which now is in Hunt’s ownership.

The city also has right of first refusal should Aspen Film pay off its entire COPs balance and decide to sell the theater space, True said.

The building at 516 E. Hyman Ave., meanwhile, is the home of Isberian Rug Co. The seller was SJA Associates LLC.

Hunt said “at some point” he plans to redevelop the property, but more immediate are plans for a new building facade.