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Empty storefronts plentiful in Aspen

ALLEN BEST
special to the Summit Daily News

ASPEN – Aspen’s usually robust retail and restaurant sector has plenty of empty storefronts this year, by some estimates 8 to 10 percent.

It is, according to commercial broker Karen Setterfield, the highest vacancy rate she’s seen in 23 years.

“When you are 100 percent occupied and you all of a sudden see 7 percent vacancy, it all looks like it’s vacant,” said Bill Small, a commercial real estate broker.

Retail stores seem harder hit than restaurants, but no sectors have been exempted. Architects and other offices have downscaled, with the result that office space, which once commanded $40 per square foot, now gets in the high $20’s to mid-$30s.

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Nobody seems to expect much to change this ski season, and perhaps not until 2011. But Marmot, the manufacturer of outdoor apparel and equipment, opened its first retail store in Colorado in Aspen, and The Aspen Times suggests that regional retailers might be the wave of the future in Aspen. The national retailers, it seems, have cold feet.

Landlords have been willing to negotiate with tenants in high-end venues over leases, but not prices. The commercial retail market still commands $75 to $150 a square foot.


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