Smuggler Mine contract unravels
The Aspen Times
A potential contract that would have maintained the Smuggler Mine as a tourist attraction alongside two new, oversized houses has fallen through, a co-owner of the property said Tuesday.
“We’re out of contract, and that’s all I can say about it,” said Chris Preusch, president of New Smuggler Mining Corp. a group of seven longtime locals who listed the property for sale in 2012 for $9.5 million.
The historic mine, which includes access to millions of dollars’ worth of high-grade silver ore and two side-by-side developable lots, went under contract this summer. In August, prospective buyer Joe Crafton, a retired corporate executive, revealed his plans for the 29.7-acre site, which he told the Pitkin County Commissioners he planned to buy for $7.5 million.
If approved, Crafton’s proposal would have seen the mine maintained as a tourist attraction, with the additions of a visitor center, gift shop, museum, observation deck and a silver-production exhibit. In exchange for preserving the mine, Crafton proposed building two houses as big as 15,000 square feet each, when county code for such a lot allows for 5,750 square feet each.
Crafton and his representatives could not be reached for comment.
Preusch said the property has always been listed for sale, and in November, the owners extended the mine’s listing for another year with broker Matt Holstein, of Sotheby’s International Realty.
Holstein said title issues associated with the property have complicated the deal, which he confirmed has been terminated, although he is still talking with Crafton.
“The buyer is still engaged and wants to buy the property if they can solve these title issues,” Holstein said.
Preusch said that other parties have inquired about the property. When asked what the future holds for the Smuggler Mine, he said that will be up to the prospective buyer.
“That’s purely up to the buyer,” he said. “Whether they choose to keep it open for tours or not, we have no idea. The people who are looking at it are not telling us what their intentions are.”
The 29.7-acre site consists of the 9.7-acre mine site and two 10-acre lots. In the late 1800s, the mine produced the world’s largest silver nugget. Taken from Smuggler in 1894, the giant chunk of nearly pure silver weighed 1,840 pounds. Preusch told The Aspen Times in 2012 that an estimated 890,000 tons of ore remained inside.
Tenants at the city’s oldest deed-restricted housing complex, Centennial Apartments, faced rent hikes as high as 30% in January that sent city, county, and APCHA officials into closed-door meetings with the relatively new landlord, Birge & Held.