An upvalley restaurateur is taking a prime, vacant spot in Basalt and a longtime established retailer is swapping one space on Midland Avenue for another.
Bennett Bramson, a commercial real estate agent with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby's International Realty, said those are indicative of a growing interest he is seeing in commercial spaces in Basalt and throughout the midvalley.
The downtown core experiences peaks and valleys, he said. There have been more vacancies than usual because of five years of recession and lingering economic trouble, according to Bramson.
"Some people are ready to throw their hands up and declare it a ghost town," Bramson said. He said he doesn't think that's going to happen, noting that downtown is recovering strength and will continue to do so.
"There's always going to be a high level of interest in downtown," he said. "If things are priced right, they certainly will move."
The owners of Red Mountain Grill at the Aspen Airport Business Center and Aspen Highlands have signed a three-year lease for the space Midland Baking Co. used to occupy in the Riverside Plaza building on Two Rivers Road, Bramson said. He and real estate agent Debra Ritchie handled the deal.
Jamie Ramey of Red Mountain Grill said the Basalt restaurant will have a different name and theme than its sister eateries. It will be called the Fryingpan, he said, and will be open for lunch and dinner. He said more details will be available before the restaurant opens in mid- or late-February.
Midland Baking Co. vacated the 1,592-square-foot space at the end of October. Bramson said the site is attractive because it has good exposure on Two Rivers Road near the intersection with Midland Avenue.
Express Yourself - which specializes in greeting cards, gifts and custom printing of party and wedding invitations and other materials - is moving from 217 Midland Ave. to the Riverwalk Building, across the street and slightly to the east. It is taking over the former site of Toklat Gallery.
"We've just outgrown our space," said Express Yourself owner Amy Forsey. The business has been located in the same spot for 20-some years. Forsey bought it in 2004. She is leaving an 800-square-foot space for 1,300 square feet. Bramson helped her find the new space.
Forsey isn't concerned about leaving a well-established spot. "It's not even 200 steps away," she said of the new space. "I counted them."
The Riverwalk site is still highly visible from Midland Avenue. Plus she isn't entirely dependent on foot traffic running across her by chance. She has a high number of returning customers and custom business, she said.
Express Yourself is making the move this weekend. Forsey said she plans to open Tuesday.
Bramson said he expects Express Yourself's corner space to be sought after quickly by a new tenant.
Bramson said other commercial activity he assisted with recently was getting Campbell Audio Visual into the former El Korita restaurant space in Orchard Plaza, near Movieland, and Zapazoo Inkworks, which specializes in custom silk-screening, into the El Jebel Plaza where Mountain Soles used to be located.
One major turn of events that could reshape downtown could evolve in the summer of 2014. Clark's Market's lease in the building at the center of town expires in "mid-summer" of next year, said CEO Tom Clark Sr.
"I would say it's likely we'll close it," Clark said, emphasizing that no decision has been made yet. The grocery store has been located in the 20,000-square-foot space for 13 1/2 years. It has a 15-year lease. It's not a competitive facility for a grocery store because it's small and needs substantial upgrades, he said.
Clark said his company will "keep an open mind" to maintaining a grocery store in the midvalley, but reality dictates that might not happen. City Market is established in El Jebel and Whole Foods Market opened in Willits Town Center in August.
"It looks like the grocery business is pretty well wrapped up there," Clark said.