If you don’t know the name Birge & Held, that will likely soon change.
This week, the national, $3 billion private equity, real estate investment, construction and management firm purchased its second apartment complex in Aspen — a 22-unit deed-restricted building known as Ute City Place — and is eyeing other area properties.
Birge & Held also owns Aspen’s largest employee housing development, Centennial, which the firm bought in March 2020 for nearly $51 million with plans to scrape and redevelop.
Ute City Place, located on a 15,000-square foot lot at 909 E. Cooper Ave., closed Monday for $8,367,300, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office. Meyerstein Family Trust was listed as the seller.
“We feel like it was a great property [and] a great fit to add onto what we have at Centennial,” Andrew Held, the company’s co-founder, president and chief operating officer said when reached via phone Thursday evening.
Held and Tag Birge, both former real estate attorneys and childhood friends, founded the firm in their hometown of Indianapolis in 2008. Despite a forthcoming financial crisis, Birge & Held has expanded and acquired real estate across the U.S. — including in Colorado — at an exponential rate.
The Indianapolis-based firm marked its first presence in Colorado with the purchase of a Denver apartment in 2018. Ute City Place is the company’s tenth complex in the state — with properties in Steamboat Springs, Dillon and Georgetown — as well as two additional apartments in Colorado currently under contract.
All told, Birge & Held owns and manages 15,000 apartment units (and solely manages 22,000) across 13 states, predominantly in the central U.S., Held said Thursday. “Affordable housing” represents 90% of the firm’s portfolio, he added, which boasts more than $1.6 billion in assets currently under management.
Asked if Birge & Held is looking for other properties to buy in Aspen, Held said,
“We love Aspen — I love Aspen, personally, from a family perspective and hope to spend as much time as I can out there,” he said. “So it’s great to be a part of the community from a property ownership standpoint and be able to bring that element of our business there.”
As part of the proposed redevelopment of Centennial, project representatives had identified finding “interim housing solutions” for the roughly 450 members of Aspen’s workforce who call the complex home as a priority in order to move forward.
Under the city’s moratorium on development, however, plans for the redevelopment, which must receive Aspen City Council approval, are currently stagnant.
In any event, Ute City Place would not provide a means of temporary housing for potentially displaced Centennial residents because priority tenancy is granted to employees of the St. Regis, according to Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority guidelines. The property was built in 1992 as a mitigation to the hotel development.
“There’s no link between what we’d like to be able to do at Centennial and what we have with Ute,” Held confirmed. “At least there was no plan going in to link the two in any way.”
As far as progress on finding said interim housing options, Held said, “We’ve worked through a couple different iterations of a concept that could significantly reduce any type of tenant displacement, but that’s all sort of conceptual and we’re just trying to figure the best way to work through it.”
Asked if Birge & Held’s latest Aspen acquisition impedes the company’s ability to purchase temporary housing — specifically in the way of capital — Held said not at all.
“I almost would say it’s the opposite,” he said. “The more units that we have in a market, and in particular in a place like Aspen, I think we have a deeper understanding of the market and a better understanding of the landscape.”
As with Centennial, Ute City Place will eventually become a free-market property at the culmination of the current deed restrictions.
Held said Birge & Held has no intention of making any changes to Ute City Place, except maybe raising the rent “to the level that we are able.” Tenants paid $1,126 per month for rent last year, according to a copy of a 2021 lease.
As far as management, Held said the three-person staff at Centennial will also oversee the latest addition to Birge & Held’s portfolio.
By: Erica Robbie I Aspen Daily News I May 2022