The Casper family, longtime owners of Eric’s Bar, The Cigar Bar and Su Casa, sold the underlying real estate to a corporation controlled by developer Mark Hunt for $10.6 million.
The deal closed late last week and was recorded in the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office on Monday. Mary Lynn Casper noted that she will retain ownership of her businesses and they will remain in operation for the foreseeable future.
“For 28 years the Casper family and staff have enjoyed serving our community and friends. We look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come,” according to a written statement furnished by Casper. She added that her family bought her business’ spaces in 1998, after operating them since 1991.
Hunt could not be reached for comment but Chris Bendon, a land use planning consultant who works for Hunt, said that there are no immediate plans to redevelop the property.
“For right now it’s just a buy and hold,” Bendon said, adding that Hunt was presented with an opportunity that was favorable in terms of timing and price.
A corporation tied to Hunt also owns the adjacent building at 305/307 S. Mill St., home to Grey Lady, which may be remodeled later this year, as the redevelopment team has submitted for a building permit that is currently under city review. A corporation tied to Hunt also owns the Crystal Palace property across Hyman Avenue from Eric’s that is currently under construction and will reopen eventually as a boutique hotel.
The deal with the Casper family includes 18 condominiumized spaces at 315 E. Hyman Ave. and the listing was advertised to include 9,847 square feet on three levels. The deal includes the space formerly home to the Hub bike shop that is now vacant, but it does not include units in the back of the building that are home to a law office and under separate ownership.
The listing agent on the deal was Jordan Nemirow of Engel & Völkers Aspen, who has also been a bartender at Eric’s for 15 years.
His intimate knowledge of the property was integral to his success brokering the deal, he wrote in an email.
“In the real estate world in Aspen, where every buyer is extremely knowledgeable, intrinsically knowing your product is not only a benefit, but a necessity as a successful real estate broker,” he said.
A fixture behind the bar at Eric’s, Nemirow described the “service industry family” of Aspen that has kept him there so long. He has also been a real estate broker for about 15 years.
“I started at Eric's 15 years ago after the Tippler closed (RIP),” he wrote in an email. “I’ve stayed so long because we are all a part of a service industry family here in Aspen. … But Aspen is also a place where few workers have the opportunity to see their real families on a regular basis. We work all major holidays and we even create more holidays so that we can work some more. For those of us who have been in the service industry for such a long time, it's a lifestyle, not just a job.”
Nemirow emphasized that business as usual would continue at Eric’s, the Cigar Bar, Aspen Billiards and Su Casa, which are all under the same roof.
“We have signed a long-term lease with the new building owner and we look forward to serving all of our regulars and out-of-town guests for years to come,” he wrote.
The property, known as the Wheeler Square building, was subject to negotiations that broke down in June 2018 that would have had Jazz Aspen Snowmass as the buyer. The nonprofit JAS planned to turn the Caspers’ spaces into a music education and performance venue.
After that deal fell through, JAS went under contract with Hunt to acquire space on Cooper Avenue near the Red Onion.
The property was listed for $12.99 million after the JAS deal broke down.
The Wheeler Square building is uniquely constrained in terms of redevelopment potential. It sits in the foreground of the protected viewplane emanating from the Wheeler Opera House, which essentially limits heights in that location at one story. With ample open space and courtyards on the site, the downtown land use code adopted in 2017 would limit the ability to expand square footage.
Bendon said that he’s done limited examination on what would be possible on the property in terms of redevelopment, emphasizing that “there are no plans on the horizon at all. We haven’t looked at what the property could do if it were redeveloped. We know there is a significant amount of regulation on it between the viewplane and the new land use code.”
However, it’s a great building in a great location and Hunt — who through corporations tied to a Chicago address owns more than a dozen Aspen commercial properties purchased since 2010 — likes the area, Bendon noted.