Roger Marolt: A developer’s dream coming true | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: A developer’s dream coming true

Roger Marolt
Roger This

Here's one for you: How does a developer salvage a disaster?

He unloads it on the government.

Seriously, why else would Mark Hunt be shopping his building at 517 E. Hopkins Ave. in the heart of our retail core to the city to be used for government office space? The only plausible answers are A) He loves the city of Aspen or B) Because nobody in the free market (i.e smart people) will touch it for anything close to what he's asking.

We are being played. We are being asked to pay top dollar for office space that will either be in the basement or on the second floor. There is no prime commercial core meat on this bone.

Subterranean space just plain stinks to work in. Ask anyone besides a bat or a mushroom. Second-floor space is fine for an office, but not at penthouse pricing. Hunt convinced us to sign a contract paying roughly $1,725 per square foot for upstairs space and nearly $1,000 per square foot for the root cellar. Hunt has shown us that you actually can make this crap up and turn a profit on it.

On top of that, the willy-nilly combination of all this space will be split among three buildings, not even on the same block. And the combination adds up to 7,600 square feet less than what the city thinks it will eventually need.

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This is a bolder move than trying to sell us on an "affordable" hotel in downtown Aspen without any parking spaces. Hahaha … I'm not kidding.

But, they say you can't go into a deal like this worrying about what the developer is getting. You have to analyze what you are getting out of it. OK, let's look at what we get out of this "deal" behind door No. 2.

First of all, we get to say goodbye to over 25,000 square feet of office and business spaces in downtown Aspen that you or I could have potentially run a business from.

We get happier landlords. They love less supply, which results in higher rents.

We get reduced chances of locals owning and operating successful businesses in our home town, because the government will be working where we should be. We get less sales taxes that these displaced local businesses might have generated. We get rid of some cool Aspen vibe that might still exist. It will be like when they put the drivers license office in the Glenwood Mall.

Basically, we get shafted.

We get to be part of the problem, too. We are inserting ourselves into the middle of our real estate feeding frenzy. Our actions, driving downtown rents up, is like throwing fermented chum into the shark-infested pools of real estate investment trusts. With us jumping into these waters as a major player, there can be absolutely no reasonable expectation that we aren't working to attract even more construction to downtown in the future.

We get to reaffirm to all developers from now until the end of time that there is no way you can pay too much for Aspen real estate. We get to prove that there is always a greater fool who will step up and pay more for a property than the developer before. Remember when Hunt rolled into town and started buying everything in sight at what we thought were absurd prices? We are on the verge of getting to be wrong.

What happened here is that a petty fight, picked by a very few well-intentioned but misguided people, ended up in an ugly and expensive, completely unnecessary lawsuit, that brought a fairly good plan by the city to a dead halt, and created an opportunity for a tenacious, if not slick, developer to swoop in with a "solution" that allows everyone to save a little face to settle this stupid spat, but at a tremendous cost to us, the citizens of Aspen.

Realizing this, if we still fall for this sleight of hand and build the city office spaces on property we buy from Mark Hunt, we will soon get the opportunity to decide what else to build on the land we already own down by the parking garage. Yay! Wait … what?

Did you really think, if we don't build office space on that property now, that we will never build anything there ever? Haha! You really are a sucker.

Roger Marolt doesn't think you can discourage developers in Aspen by buying their product at a premium price. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.