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Hunt Reviews Downtown Aspen Projects, Vows To Improve Communication, Relationship With Community

Hunt Reviews Downtown Aspen Projects, Vows To Improve Communication, Relationship With Community

Mark Hunt sounded rueful last week going over his many Aspen projects, all the holes in communication as well as still-unfinished jobs.

“I would do almost anything to go back and do it over. I think that I would do it so differently,” he told the Aspen Chamber Resort Association Board of Directors, who had invited him to speak.

It’s not that often he accepts such invitations, he said.

“I mean, this is a big for me, typically, if there’s more than six people, I don’t show up,” he said. “I’m more on the introverted side. People who work with me say, you know, he likes buildings more than he likes people, no offense to anyone. But it’s really no excuse.”

He was candid about his feelings about his relationship with the community and local businesses. 

“I think I’ve burned some bridges along the way just by not speaking and not explaining what it is that we’re working on,” he said. “I think I have some bridge building to do. And I think that we’re going to start seeing the kind of action if we can deliver some of the stuff back to the community, hopefully.

“It’s always interesting to me to watch how history happens. Mark owns a number of properties, 15 or 17, or something that is unsettling to a community. He recognized that,” said former Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, an ACRA Board member as vice president and campus dean of Colorado Mountain College at the meeting.

“Mark didn’t tell the group about The Gap building, and Mark took a lot of heat on that for building what ended up there,” Skadron said. “The reality was that Mark could have had the rights to build a third floor on the building. He chose not to, to preserve the footprint and part of the community ethic.”

Skadron explained that to a degree city council has its hand tied, and how much it can influence what, say, the Historic Preservation Commission does. 

“The history of that building, could have been quite different, or it isn’t necessarily the sole vision of the developer, what ends up there. The Chase Bank building, and no offense to our bankers in the room, but that was not Mark’s intention, to build a bank, right? The community built the bank. That was an incredibly complex political process that our favorite activists and letter writers delivered to the community,” Skadron asserted, saying he wasn’t speaking up to defend or castigate Hunt.

“It’s to say that a community gets what it deserves. And the fact is this community delivered a bank in that spot,” the ex-mayor said. “It’s interesting to study the past to understand how we got to where we are today.”

So where is Aspen’s downtown core today?

Hunt lamented that on the project progress side, it’s been painfully slow. “

Again, I apologize for that. We have some, you know, really ugly holes in town. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel here,” he said.

Here is an update on the company’s current developments and plans for them, according to Hunt, himself.

412-420 E. Cooper: Red Onion/JAS

This is in permit review, getting closer to issuance for a remodel of the Red Onion bar and construction of a new venue for Jazz Aspen Snowmass.

“I’m proud to say we got our permit last week, and it will be under construction Monday (June 5),” he said.

“We are putting in there Banana Republic. It’s on the Cooper Mall. LoveShackFancy is going in there. The beloved Red Onion is going to come back on line. And what we’re really excited about is Jazz Aspen Snowmass. That’s one that’s certainly not the highest and best use, but we can open up the whole top and in perfect Aspen fashion, you can kind of poach a free concert sitting on the mall,” he said.

422-434 E. Cooper

There is a permit for a new restaurant/retail space for Restoration Hardware.

“We have received our permit for 434 E. Cooper and are planning on starting in early June,” said Jimmy Marcus, development director for Hunt Properties. 

Restoration Hardware will be creating one of their gallery-style retail shops.

“They’re doing a relatively small gallery. The second floor is all a restaurant. What we’re hoping is it’s like Aspen’s second kitchen. It’s very bespoke. It’s going to be very Aspen specific and designed, you know, to kind of fit in here,” said Hunt.

Construction was scheduled to start this month.

Restoration Hardware is also doing a nine-room hotel at the old Crystal Palace with a restaurant/cafe and spa open to the public.

30 Main

“We bought 30 Main, and that is something where you do an office. We’re actually getting kicked out of an office downtown by a tenant, so we may move our office there,” said Hunt. He also mentioned doing “smart” affordable housing.

201 W. Main

“We are finally permitted — the eyesore kind of coming and going in and out of town. It’s under construction,” said Hunt.

A new detached building is being added to the site, and the garden is being designed for new outdoor seating for restaurant use at the former Main Street Bakery.

611 Main

Hunt: “611 main is approved and in for permit, which is which is also for more affordable housing.”

300 E. Hyman

This property is under construction as a new hotel/restaurant.

“We’re close on permits, but we’re back in again,” Hunt said. “This was a change of the old Crystal Palace. And that’s kind of a tricky one, because this is the first one where we’ve gone to kind of great extent really designing the building, that we were proud of at the time of kind of marrying the old with the new in this kind of yin-yang type of how the old ties into the new.”

He added: “As it turns out, it’s not even historic, which is just so sad. It’s the one that we’re really kind of struggling with. We’re pretending something is that isn’t so. And again, I don’t want to do that and be a fake. So somehow we’ll have to kind of educate the community on why we’re doing this.”

315 E. Hyman

Hunt said the Gravity Haus is going there, and they are waiting on a permit.

“We just kind of leased the building, but we’re here to be helpful to them,” said Hunt.

305-307 S. Mill

This property has two tenant spaces, one of which is under remodel as a location for Stranahan’s Whisky. The other space is in land use review for Wild Fig restaurant.

“I’m super happy that 305-307 Mill, which is right by the fountain, is permitted under construction,” said Hunt.

517 E. Hopkins

“This property is in permit review for a new commercial building. I’m not sure exactly what tenants are planned,” said Amy Simon, Aspen planning director.

“We’ve been in for permit on that for an extraordinary amount of time. But again, I think that is going to be late summer, early fall, where we can kind of get that and we’re working, with the city and the farmers market to make sure we’re not disrupting that at all,” said Hunt.

737 E. Cooper

“We’re hoping to have a permit late summer, early fall. And really we start we try to start the day after we get a permit, but you never really know when it’s coming,” said Hunt.

404 Park

Hunt explained that they’re interested in small homes like aspects they have 404 Park.

“We have declined who knows how many offers. To do that as kind of free market, but that’s one that we’re looking at trying in affordable housing.”

Julie Bielenberg I The Aspen Times I June 6, 2023

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