Mother Lode Commercial Space Sells for $7M

Mother Lode Commercial Space Sells for $7M

Another building on the 300 block of East Hopkins Avenue was bought by developer Mark Hunt in a $7 million commercial deal recorded last week.

A limited liability company controlled by Hunt added the Mother Lode building’s ground-level space to the other buildings on the 300 block of East Hyman Avenue that he acquired in recent years.

The latest deal gives Hunt 2,794 square feet of ground-level retail/office space and 499 square feet of storage space in the building basement. Not included in the deal was the building’s penthouse that sold for $36.5 million in September 2021.

Reached Wednesday, Hunt responded via email saying there are “no plans for the space at this time. We own a lot on the street and thought it would be a good idea to control it. Love the building.”

Hunt also is building a boutique hotel in the former Crystal Palace Theater space next door to the Mother Lode building. That project has been slow getting off the ground, as have an assortment of other Hunt projects in town.

Luxury home-furnishing giant RH, formerly known as Restoration Hardware, has been expanding its mission and announced two years ago it was teaming with Hunt to build what would be called an “RH Ecosystem” in Aspen. It would be comprised of the boutique hotel on East Hyman, along with a two-story building with an RH Bespoke Gallery, rooftop restaurant and other retail spaces in the former Bidwell building at the corner of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue.  The “ecosystem” also includes residential property and other developments.  

When RH unveiled its plans for Aspen in January 2021, the company said, “RH currently plans to open the RH Gallery on Galena, and the RH Guesthouse at the Historic Crystal Palace, which will include the Company’s first RH Bath House & Spa, in 2022.”

Those plans are all behind the original scheduled openings. 

Hunt representatives have said the city’s glacial building-permit process has held up the work, while city officials have said change orders that don’t jibe with previously approved plans have stretched out the permitting process.

In a company filing in March, the publicly traded RH touched on Aspen. Hunt controls three LLCs that own three properties RH would lease. RH also has put money into those LLCs through what are called “equity method investments.”

The filing referred to Hunt and his M Development company as its “Aspen Development Partner” and noted the financial risks the development of the Aspen “ecosystem” presents. 

“In fiscal 2022, we entered into additional real estate joint venture transactions with entities affiliated with our Aspen Development Partner with respect to various properties that we expect will ultimately be developed and may in numerous instances be leased in whole or in part by RH now or in the future for new RH Galleries or other RH business concepts,” the filing said. “These new approaches might cause us to pursue complicated real estate transactions and may require additional capital investment and could present different risks related to the ownership and developments of real estate compared to those risks associated with a traditional store lease with a landlord.”

RH has infused $105 million in capital contributions “to the Aspen LLCs as contractually required and no further capital contributions are required other than payments made under a management services arrangement,” RH said in its year-end report issued March 28. 

The company filing also said “we expect (the Aspen properties) will ultimately be developed and may in numerous instances be leased in whole or in part by RH now or in the future for new RH Galleries or other RH business concepts.”

Apart from the RH endeavor, Hunt owns the Wheeler Square building across from the Mother Lode building, once informally called “The Compound,” because it housed Su Casa restaurant, Eric’s nightclub, the Cigar Bar and Aspen Billiards. A Hunt-led group bought that space for $10.6 million from an Aspen family in January 2020 and the rest of the Wheeler Square condominium building from an Aspen lawyer in August 2020. 

The Gravity Haus is easing its way to the Wheeler Square space. The Gravity Haus currently runs a coffee house from the former Hub of Aspen space in Wheeler Square, and plans to expand into the Wild Fig’s longtime restaurant space, as well as the former Compound space. 

The Gravity Haus is planning for a fitness facility, rentable office space and workspace, a sauna, ski lockers, locker rooms and more, the Aspen Daily News reported in January. The Gravity Haus company was founded in 2019 in Breckenridge.

Meanwhile, the Mother Lode space just acquired by Hunt had been used since 2013 by The Aspen Times newspaper, which relocated in December to the 500 block of East Hyman Avenue. Colorado Mountain News Media received the Mother Lode property from the Hotel Jerome owners in exchange for the old Aspen Times building in 2012. Hunt was part of the Hotel Jerome ownership that made the deal at the time. Auberge Resorts bought the Hotel Jerome in 2015 for $69.15 million.

When Ogden Newspapers acquired Swift Communications in January 2022, it absorbed the company’s newspapers but it did not buy any of the Aspen properties Swift owned, including the Mother Lode space and company housing for employees.

Colorado Mountain News Media, a division of Swift, held onto the Times office space on Hyman, and listed it for sale last year. 

The Jerome owners redeveloped the original Times building, where its facade remains. The rest of the building was redeveloped into a nightclub styled as a speakeasy, and a three-level building of suites was built behind the structure.

By: Rick Carroll | Aspen Daily News \ April 16, 2023

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