‘Mini-Obermeyer’ next for commercial site? | AspenTimes.com

‘Mini-Obermeyer’ next for commercial site?

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN The Mill Street Commercial Center is set to change ownership in June, closing the chapter on what co-seller John Provine said will be complex series of transactions.Provine and Ronald Soderling bought the two-level, 20,000-square-foot building in June 2006 for $10 million but already have decided to flip it. Provine said the new buyers – a collection of seven limited liability companies – are the “same people” who bought the back building, at 557 N. Mill St., earlier this month for $3.8 million. He would not reveal the purchase price for the larger building, across the street from Clark’s Market. The Mill Street Commercial Center consists of two buildings – the one that sold last month and the one under contract. It has nearly 20 businesses, including a bike shop, a coin-operated laundry and a video store. Both buildings are zoned Service-Commercial-Industrial.

Provine said that when he originally acquired the building, he envisioned a “mini-Obermeyer.” He said the new owners, a group of investors that includes Aspen lawyers Ronald Garfield and Andrew Hecht and local businessman Steve Hansen, likely will carry out his plan.”My partner and I have decided we don’t want to go through the three- or four-year process to get this through the city,” he said. “I would rather be a full-time ski bum. This is just a major project, and look how long it took Obermeyer to get through. This is half the size of Obermeyer.”Obermeyer Place, on Bleeker Street around the corner from the Mill Street Commercial Center, is a mixed-use development that also is zoned SCI, which means commercial tenants get cut-rate rents of about $20 per square foot. It opened earlier this year. Provine said the city’s moratorium on building-permit applications, which is set to expire May 31, also gave him cold feet. “With the confusion the city has over what their rules are, I didn’t want to have brain damage over this,” he said.

Tenants at the complex should feel secure for the time being, Provine said. Michael Wampler, owner of Aspen Velo, said Wednesday that he feels his bicycle shop is intact for the short term, but with the mayoral and Aspen City Council elections approaching, anything can happen. “My lease is good through October 2008, and I’ve heard through the grapevine we’ll get two more years,” he said. “But in light of the political situation here, if we get two developers on the City Council, that will be a defining moment.” Should the new owners go through with the scrape-and-replace project, Wampler said, he hopes the City Council requires them to help him relocate his business in the interim. The situation would be similar to Obermeyer; the developer tore down dilapidated buildings, which housed nearly 20 businesses, to make way for the existing structures, which house a combination of residences and commercial operations. Tenants were relocated during that construction project.

“By all means I will stick it out for two or three years while they build it,” he said. “But hopefully they will make Garfield and Hecht relocate us, and also build employee housing. I think you’ll see some active City Council meetings about this.”Earlier this month, the seven LLCs combined to buy the 8,000-square-foot back building, which includes such businesses as Studio B Architects and Aspen Glow Tan. Along with the LLCs controlled by Garfield, Hecht and Hansen, the principles of the others LLCs include Timothy Presutti, Douglas Ostrover, Nikos Hecht and Korenvaes Capital Partners of Dallas.Public records filed in Pitkin County last week show that the seven LLCs combined to give Provine and Soderling a $10.2 million loan. Provine said the transaction was a formality.”It’s just all part of this convoluted transaction that was done for tax reasons,” he said. “If we didn’t have to pay taxes, there would be no complications.”Rick Carroll can be reached at rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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