Dallas group buys downtown Aspen building for $28 million
February 22, 2018
Editor's note: The following article has been altered from the original version due to a reporting error.
A Dallas-based group has paid $28 million for an off-market, downtown Aspen commercial property nicknamed the "Lego building."
Stephen Summers, the operator-manager of the CT018 Aspen LLC partnership, which closed on its acquisition of the 535 E. Hyman Ave. building Wednesday, said the wheels are in motion to bring retailers into the 20,000 square feet of commercial space that has been predominantly vacant since it was erected in 2015.
The corner building currently is home to the luxury fashion boutique Mr & Mrs Italy on its ground level and the yoga studio Aspen Shakti in its basement space.
"We thought that location is on the 50-yard line, and they just need to get some activity," Summers said.
Four of the six ground-level, retail units are currently available for tenants. Summers said the Los Angeles clothing label Frame Denim has signed a lease to move in later this year, and a fitness operation will take up another space in the basement level.
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Aspen appraiser Randy Gold touched on the significance of the purchase during a presentation he gave at Thursday's Aspen Board of Realtors 2018 Annual Market Update Luncheon at the St. Regis Aspen Resort hotel.
"The new owner has a lot of commercial and retail experience," he said, adding that "we're going to, over the next few months, finally see some new life in the … building."
Summers and brother-in-law Ray Washburne are owners of 250,000-square-foot Highland Park Village, an upscale shopping plaza located in an affluent area of Dallas. Summers, Washburne and their wives bought the property for $170 million in 2009.
Summers also was instrumental in attracting Austin, Texas, restaurateur Larry McGuire and his partners to Aspen. Last year, McGuire and investors paid $2 million for the Little Annie's building next door to the Lego building. McGuire, co-founder of Clark's Oyster Bar, will open a restaurant with the same name in the Little Annie's spot later this year, possibly as early as June 1. The building currently is being remodeled.
"When I came in, that block was empty," Summers said. "And you had Little Annie's, which was an institution and tough to see go, and I think my No. 1 goal was to replace that restaurant on that block, which needed traffic."
Summers appeared bullish about looking at other properties in Aspen to buy.
"I'd love to," he said. "This market is special."
Both the Little Annie's building and the Lego building were owned by Aspen's father-and-son development team Andy and Nikos Hecht, as well as other investors.
The Hechts' Aspen Core Ventures also sold an undeveloped penthouse on top of the 535 E. Hyman building for $25 million in November 2015. Like the commercial space underneath it, the penthouse was not listed for sale when it changed ownership. An ordinance passed by Aspen City Council in 2012 bans construction of penthouses and condominiums in the downtown core.
Aspen Core Ventures bought the Little Annie's building, the former Huntsman Gallery building and the parking lot at the intersection of East Hyman Avenue and Hunter Street for $17.75 million in November 2010. The gallery building, built in the 1960s by the late artist Tom Benton, was preserved as part of the just-sold structure, which also was built on the parking lot.
"Aspen has an insane ability to do well with product types, but not if you try to force a square peg in a round hole," said Summers, a frequent visitor whose family owns a home here. "Aspen is a really special market, and we're so excited to be part of the arts and culture that is a big part of what goes on in Aspen."