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More local businesses fear the end

John Colson
Mark Fox/The Aspen Times
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A building the city of Aspen says is a critical bastion of businesses serving locals has a new owner, and tenants fear they will be priced out.John R. Provine and his company, North Mill Ventures LLC, recently purchased the Mill Street Commercial Center for $10 million, according to records at the Pitkin County clerk and recorders office.Provine bought the North Mill Street building from longtime owners Bil Dunaway of Aspen (former publisher of The Aspen Times) and David Baxter of Crested Butte, reportedly at twice the buildings estimated value based on existing uses and lease rates.Provine also reportedly has been involved in recent purchases of the Wienerstube building at 633 E. Hyman Ave. and the La Cocina building at 308 E. Hopkins Ave.The Mill Street Commercial Center is home to a variety of locally oriented businesses, including the towns sole coin-operated laundry; one of two surviving video stores, Alp Video; and the communitys only used sports equipment shop, Use It Again.It is also home to one of Aspens oldest bicycle shops, Aspen Velo, which store owner Michael Wampler said may well face extinction.Were going to go the exact same way as everybody else in this town, Wampler said Wednesday. He predicted the redevelopment of the property will mean higher rents and the end of his business.Wampler said Provine has discussed his plans in the months since August, when the affected business owners heard about the sale.Those plans, he said, include demolition of the existing Mill Street Commercial Center and the old Stefan Kaelen building, at 555 N. Mill St., just north of the commercial center (now occupied by the Studio B Architects offices).In their places, Wampler said, Provine hopes to build three-story, mixed-use structures with luxury condominiums on top, affordable housing on the second floor and retail on the ground. Provine could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.Ive been told by the new property managers that we will be offered space, Wampler said of the existing centers tenants.But, he said, the prices could easily be steeper than the current tenants can afford, and he expressed the hope that the city will step in to prevent these businesses from being eliminated.Councils gotta help us, or theres not going to be any mom-and-pop anything left, Wampler said.He noted that another bicycle store, Ajax Bike & Sport in the Wienerstube building, will be closing soon in the wake of Provines purchase of that building.Since the early 1970s, the areas at the base of Mill Street and East Bleeker Street behind the Concept 600 building have been zoned service/commercial/industrial and been home to automobile and equipment repair shops, hardware stores, dry cleaners and similar businesses.In 1988, the City Council voted to allow artist studios in the zone, and a few years later well-known local architect Harry Teague convinced the city that architects qualified as artists and should be allowed in the zone.Provine reportedly is planning to apply to the city to rezone the property.John Colsons e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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