Obermeyer tenants offer mixed reviews
November 17, 2006
Whether the redevelopment of one of Aspen’s last bastions of funky commerce is a success depends a great deal on whom you ask.When the businesses at Obermeyer Place finally open, about one-third will be familiar service-oriented concerns that did business at roughly the same site. The other two-thirds of the shops will be a mixture of businesses relocating from elsewhere in Aspen or from downvalley.According to a list sent to The Aspen Times by Tim Belinski, vice president of finance for Sport Obermeyer, 20 business are signed up and ready to move into the new quarters.Because of the special service-commercial-industrial zoning for the project, the lease rates are around $20 per square foot, and the purchase prices are “somewhat reflective of that,” in the range of $300 to $400 per square foot, Belinski said.Obermeyer Place is a massive redevelopment project by property owner Klaus Obermeyer, owner of the Sport Obermeyer skiwear juggernaut and an Aspen resident for more than half a century. Spring Street and Rio Grande Place, across from Rio Grande Park, form the boundaries of the site.Obermeyer’s stated goal was to rehabilitate a group of dilapidated structures that housed a scattering of longtime, nonresort-oriented business. The plan was to give those businesses the first shot at space in the new development.The trick from the beginning was to create new commercial buildings to replace the razed structures, while keeping it affordable for businesses serving locals. The area is zoned service-commercial-industrial; a gym, pet groomer, auto-repair place, glass shop, ski tuner and other such businesses ran their operations there.The residential component of the project was proposed to help offset the cost of the low-cost commercial space. The project includes 22 free-market condos, presold the same day they went on the market two years ago for $1.4 million to $3.9 million. In today’s hot real estate market, their value has increased some 30 percent, according to an Obermeyer representative.A total of 22 deed-restricted worker units will house a handful of Sport Obermeyer employees, several individuals who will work at Obermeyer Place businesses, and other qualified workers of the developers’ choosing.Still, some familiar faces will not be coming back to the neighborhood – for a variety of reasons that have left some feeling a little bitter, others feeling just fine, and a few not sure how they feel.”They made it plain that they didn’t want me in there,” said the Dave Pustolka of the Welding Co., explaining that when the early redevelopment planning was under way, Obermeyer representatives wanted him to reduce the number of vehicles he kept on the premises and eliminate the storage of steel.”If I don’t have steel, what’s the point of being in the steel business?” he asked. He now operates a shop in Basalt, and refers to Obermeyer Place as a “Taj Mahal” that he had hoped would be “the last industrial place in town for working guys like me.”Reese Stephenson of Aspen Snow Removal also believes the redevelopment did not work out as promised.”We were told we’d have a place that’d really work out for us,” he said, but then the project team began suggesting that the company needed to “evolve into a small company” with fewer clients and less need for heavy equipment onsite.”You don’t work hard to get smaller,” Stephenson declared.Aspen Custom Glass owner Keith Schenkelberg, whose business has been in one of the temporary “modular” structures next door to Obermeyer Place, expressed some frustration with the fact that he is not in the space he was “promised and promised and promised” he could move into by August 2006.But he continues to negotiate with the Obermeyer Place team about issues he declined to discuss, and he remains hopeful that Aspen Custom Glass will soon be doing business out of its new quarters in the new buildings.Two other high-profile businesses have chosen not to move back into their downtown Aspen location because they are happy with the arrangements they’ve made with Obermeyer. Beth Gill’s Aspen Branch flower shop and Jeff Moonitz’s Rocky Mountain Martial Arts-Aspen studio will remain at the Aspen Business Center, where they lease space from Sport Obermeyer. Neither Gill nor Moonitz was available for comment for this story.”[Gill] decided she did not want to bring the business back,” Belinski said, in part because there is better parking at the ABC.Obermeyer Place newcomer Tom Engleman, of the a la Car delivery service, also was frustrated over not being in his new quarters yet. He maintained that, in light of the fact that the free-market condos are basically finished, and in some cases occupied, it appears as though the commercial spaces were “not the priority that they were.”But, he continued, “I know how long it takes for this stuff to happen. I’m very excited about the fact that I’m going to have a space for my business that I can buy … I think it’s a fair deal.”With 10 years of business in Aspen under his belt – and hopes that he will be around for a lot longer thanks in part to the Obermeyer Place redevelopment – Engleman predicted confidently, “I’ll be in there by Christmas.”John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.