Building Community

Mark Hunt Has Big Plans for Downtown Aspen

How will the commercial landlord's upcoming projects change the town's landscape?

By Carolyn Sackariason July 23, 2019 Published in the Midsummer/Fall 2019 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Image: Karl Wolfgang

Notice an uptick in local construction activity? That’s partly because, beginning this summer, seemingly ubiquitous commercial landlord Mark Hunt has started to act on plans to scrape and replace a half dozen downtown buildings. If that sounds like a developer on a binge, know that Hunt has a method to his madness, one that he hopes will serve both locals and visitors.

“Downtown has zero vision right now,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to connect the town with the people who live here.”

To date, Hunt has redeveloped only one building in his large portfolio: the Galena Street structure that now houses Lululemon, Dolce and Gabbana, and Theory. But he has big plans for other components of his inventory (see sidebar). 

Hunt, who moved to Aspen in 2009 from Chicago, went on a spending spree in the mid-2010s with his investment partners, buying up more than a dozen buildings collectively worth more than $100 million.

Obviously, having one predominant landlord has made many Aspenites nervous. And it hasn’t helped assuage fears that Hunt, an introvert by nature, has hesitated to step into the spotlight. But recognizing the impact of his plans, he says he will do public outreach this summer. “I plan to have office hours,” he says. “I want people to come at me and tell me what they want.”

Hunt has received approvals to redevelop the properties, which won’t be more than two stories tall and will respect the character of town as defined by citizen boards like the Historic Preservation Commission.

To achieve this, says Chris Bendon, Hunt’s land-use consultant, the development team will consider the massing of buildings and materials used. “We’re creating architecture that doesn’t mimic but respects the grand buildings like the Elks or the Wheeler [Opera House],” he explains. 

Nonetheless, Hunt’s projects will noticeably affect the downtown vibe. “We haven’t had a lot of buildings go up for a number of years, so if you build five, it’s going to change the landscape,” says Amy Simon, the city’s historic preservation officer.

One potential community benefit? Hunt is trying to accommodate Paradise Bakery, which must exit its 40-year Galena Street spot in 2021 for Italian clothier Loro Piana. Now that’s something everyone can get behind. 

Hunt’s Pending Aspen Commercial Projects

300 E Hyman Ave
Formerly: The Crystal Palace
Will Be: A 36,500-square-foot, 16-room boutique hotel with rooftop bar and street-level lounge
Timeline: Construction to begin this summer; completion expected in 18 months

232 E Main St
Currently: Conoco gas station
Will Be: A 7,500-square-foot building for Chase Bank
Timeline: Construction to begin this summer; completion expected in 18 months

517 E Hopkins Ave
Formerly: Aspen Daily News building
Will Be: A 14,700-square-foot building with coworking offices and some type of community space
Timeline: Construction to begin spring 2020; completion expected in 12 months

434 E Cooper Ave
Currently: Bidwell building, home to Ryno’s Pub and Pizzeria and other businesses
Will Be: A 14,600-square-foot building housing high-end retail stores and a rooftop restaurant
Timeline: Construction to begin spring 2020; completion expected in 12 months

305/307 S Mill St(on the pedestrian mall)
Currently: Mr. Grey and Kirby Ice House (summer pop-up) restaurants
Will Be: Restaurants or retail space
Timeline: Construction estimated to begin in 2020; completion expected in 12 months

201 Main St
Formerly: Main Street Bakery 
Will Be: A morning to late-night diner designed as a community gathering place, especially after sporting events 
Timeline: Construction to begin after city permits are obtained 

414/416/420/422 E Cooper Ave
Currently: Retail spaces 
Will Be: A 9,000-square-foot performance center in partnership with Jazz Aspen Snowmass, bar, and restaurant above and adjacent to the Red Onion
Timeline: Construction to begin spring 2020; completion expected in 15 to 18 months

Filed under
Show Comments