That’s one pricey Aspen parking lot
December 24, 2007
ASPEN ” One of the most expensive and largest pieces of property in downtown Aspen is about to be sold.
A deal is on the verge of closing for the 15,000-square-foot, $39-million property, said Mark Wyman, a real estate broker with The Fleischer Co., which is handling the listing.
Wyman said he is days away from closing the deal, which includes the large parking lot on the corner of Hunter Street and Hyman Avenue, the old Benton Building next to it and Little Annie’s Eating House. The property has been listed since August.
Recently new to the offering is the Little Annie’s business, in which the property owner, Ed Dingilian, has a stake.
“The business has been aggregated with the offering, giving the buyer the greatest opportunity possible to preserve that charming place,” Wyman said. “It is reflective of Ed’s desire to try and preserve it.”
Although two interested parties are preparing to close on the property, Wyman has recently purchased full-page newspaper ads marketing the land as a “legacy property.”
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The local advertising blitz is an attempt to reach the billionaires who have connections to Aspen and are in town during the holidays.
“Billionaires have different motivations and fewer constraints,” Wyman said.
Wyman and Dingilian, however, are banking on the individuals who already are lined up and have been in negotiations for weeks. That’s because they share the same goals for the property, which is envisioned to be a public-private, mixed-use development beyond anything that’s ever been contemplated in downtown Aspen.
“It’s our belief that this project, in this location and this size will allow smart growth to win out over no growth,” Wyman said. “It’s a vital piece of the puzzle that is our downtown core.”
The developers sought are being sold on the property’s potential, which includes subterranean commercial and retail space that’s three or four times the square footage of what’s allowed on the street level. It could include museum space, anticipated to be occupied by the Aspen Art Museum, as well as public and private office and retail space, and restaurants and locally-serving businesses. Public parking also would be available below grade.
The corner property has three access points that could lead to public rights of way underneath city-owned streets on Hunter and Hyman.
“This project is big enough to go several stories below grade,” Wyman said. “Public rights of way in town are underutilized and with a site this large, there could be phenomenal use of below-grade space that could have public amenities, restaurants, a museum with prime location and access.”
Offering more affordable housing, parking and locally serving businesses are stated goals within the community, and future development at the corner of Hunter and Hyman could fit the bill for all of those needs, plus more, Wyman said.
“This is a tremendous opportunity in civic and community development,” he said. “I think this property has such opportunity to exercise great concepts and we believe to our core the right plan will attract overwhelming support.”
Dingilian and Wyman believe the right project also will win over the Aspen City Council, despite that it has voted down some major land-use applications in recent months and is perceived a slow-growth council.
“This project would be far more inspiring and compelling than the projects the City Council has been forced to review in their first few months of being in power,” Wyman said. “We are so fortunate to have this property at this time.
“This thing could be utterly awesome and something that the community could be so proud of.”
The team assembled to market the property say they have gone to the ends of the earth to find a buyer who shares Dingilian’s vision of creating a development that’s designed to leave a legacy for decades to come. The property has been advertised in publications around the world, including the global editions of the Wall Street Journal, Economist Magazine and the Hong Kong Times.
“We’ve meet some extraordinary people from all over the world and the interest has been phenomenal,” Wyman said, adding many trustees and supporters of the Aspen Institute also have been tapped to gauge their interest in the property.
The land is zoned for uses allowed in the commercial core, which include retail, restaurant and offices on the ground floor, and lodging and residential on the upper floors, according to city codes. That means timeshares, fractionals, condominiums or apartments are allowed on the second and third floors.
Wyman said free-market residential and commercial would serve as the economic engine to pay for the community amenities envisioned.