517 Hopkins

A fresh coat of black paint on the door trim of 517 E. Hopkins Ave. stands out in contrast to the peeling, aged brick-red paint of the building’s storefronts on Tuesday. 

The trim of the door at 517 E. Hopkins Ave. leading into the Harvey Preston Gallery and Amber’s Uptown Consignment boasts a fresh coat of pitch-black paint, part of a larger face-lift the building is getting.

And with the new look came word of new rent — but, to be fair, tenants reported, they’d been paying below-market rate for quite some time.

For Sam Harvey, owner and director of Harvey Preston Gallery, the change marks the end of an era at that location but the spark of new beginnings, for which he’s just as excited.

“Mark [Hunt] honored a lease that I had with Dave Danforth, and … I was paying old market rates — he never raised the rent,” Harvey said.

But when the plastic covering went over the face of the building to allow for the painting, many passersby did just that — walked right on by, he noted. It wasn’t until the plastic came down that “I had a bunch of people coming in here,” he continued.

“Mentally, I’ve already moved on; I’ve already shut this door and am looking for my next opportunity. I have no ill will for Mark and I hope he makes the millions that he’s seeking to make.”

The leases always allowed for a 30-day termination, though Hunt has historically been flexible with his tenants in the space. That flexibility may continue for Amber Dunkelberg, proprietor of Amber’s Uptown Consignment, who simply said that she was still in negotiations with Hunt about the future.

While she declined to comment further about the present, she did praise her landlord for how he helped her navigate the past: “Mark Hunt helped me out tremendously during COVID,” she said.

Harvey, meanwhile, is hoping to find another location in Aspen for his gallery. Himself an acclaimed ceramic artist — he was the recipient of the 2019 USA Fellowship Award, which recognizes “the most compelling artists working and living in the United States,” according to United States Artists — Harvey is using the opportunity to reimagine what a gallery can mean to a community.

On Tuesday evening, he hosted a drag show sight unseen to a packed house. This coming Tuesday, Carbondale Arts’ Brian Colley is bringing the Roaring Fork Drawing Club, which Colley founded in 2017, to Harvey’s space for an evening of sketching and gathering.

“I’m hosting his group and we’re going to invite other people to join, and we’re going to draw for an evening. There will be adult beverages, maybe some music, but there will be a lot of sketching and drawing,” Harvey said. “I’m going to build a still life for them — flowers, fruit, mirrors. It’s going to be wild. I’m going to hang things from the ceiling.”

It’ll be a sort of last hurrah for Harvey — at 517 E. Hopkins Ave., anyway.

“I do want a building in Aspen — I have so much more to do,” he said. “Selling beautiful objects created by talented people is really, really wonderful; however, there’s more that we can do. We can fix this town. We can make this town a decent and wonderful place to live like it’s supposed to be.”

Hunt did not return a phone call seeking comment regarding his future plans for the building, which will soon be adjacent to incoming Catch Steak. The New York-based restaurant ownership group signed a 10-year lease at 515 E. Hopkins Ave., also owned by Hunt.

It’s far from the first time Hunt has indicated a shift in interest for 517 E. Hopkins Ave. — in 2016, a corporation he controlled acquired approval for a land-use application that would have allowed for a two-story, mixed-use building with affordable housing on top. Hunt had offered spaces in the building’s basement, ground- and second-floor levels — everything except for three street-fronting retail units — as an alternative location for a city hall annex building, according to previous reporting by The Aspen Daily News (for 25 years, until 2015, the building was home to the ADN office).

But voters in 2018, choosing between Hunt’s proposal and a plan approved by the Aspen City Council in 2017 for offices on publicly owned land near the library, broke in favor of the city’s proposal by a 14-point margin.

Then, in December 2018, Hunt got approval from the Historic Preservation Commission to make way for an unnamed global co-working company to take over the 517 E. Hopkins space, but the vision never came to fruition.

Megan Tackett is the editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.