Hoffmanns’ Avon plans are expanding
By the numbers
250,000: Square footage of commercial space owned by the Hoffmann family.
100 percent: Amount of current space currently under lease.
$100 million: Potential family investment in its holdings in town.
20 acres: Size of the “Folson” property adjacent to The Ascent condominiums.
AVON — A simple sign is providing advance notice of more changes to this town’s commercial core, and even more changes are coming soon.
The Hoffmann family, which is based in Chicago but has long owned property in Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch, in 2013 bought much of the property in the town’s old commercial core. That property includes the ground floor of Chapel Square, which includes the Nozawa and Fiesta Jalisco restaurants. There’s one large restaurant space, which once held an Outback Steakhouse restaurant. That space now has a sign on the door announcing that a movie theater is coming soon.
David Hoffmann, who heads his family’s company, said in the telephone interview that Phoenix Theaters has leased the space. That company intends to build a two- or three-screen theater in the old restaurant space. Those theaters will be similar to the CineBistro Theater at Vail’s Solaris building.
Hoffmann said he hopes to have the theater operating by April or May of this year.
Hoffmann has talked about a movie theater in Avon since the family company first announced its purchases in Avon. He’s also talked about putting a bowling alley somewhere in town. But that project may require more property. To provide space for a possible bowling alley, Hoffmann said the family company has recently put under contract a 20-acre parcel just east of The Ascent condominiums, on the south side of U.S. Highway 6. That very steep parcel, known as the Folson parcel, has been for sale for years, and Avon Mayor Jennie Fancher said she’s heard the property has been under contract several times, but the sale was never consummated.
The Hoffman’s’ deal may be different. Since the first purchases were announced, the family company has put much time, effort and money into its holdings. A number of sculptures now dot the commercial area, and almost all the buildings have been renovated to one degree or another. A new restaurant, Boxcar, has opened, and the Christy Sports building has received extensive upgrades.
‘Walkable Area Now’
“It’s a very walkable area now,” Hoffmann said, adding that the area will become even more pedestrian-friendly in the near future. Hoffmann said the family company has recently forged an agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad for a new walkway that will cross the tracks between the buildings hold Boxcar and the buildings that hold Burger King, Starbucks and the Avon Bakery & Deli.
“A lot of people walk through that area now,” Fancher said. “A walkway will just make that a lot easier.”
Hoffmann said his company’s plans for the Folson parcel include a walkway to cross the highway and link with town paths on the north side of the road.
There may be a good deal of both foot and vehicle traffic if Hoffmann’s plans for the parcel come to pass. Hoffmann said he’d like to see a bowling alley, as other retail space, a car wash and, possibly, a car dealership on the property.
Given the steep slope on the parcel now, that could take a lot of digging. Work on the parcel will also require new approvals from the town.
In an email, Avon Planning Manager Matt Pielsticker wrote that the parcel currently isn’t zoned. That means any owner who wants to build there will have to come to the town for approval of a “planned unit development.” That type of zoning gives developers a good bit of flexibility in creating zoning to fit expected uses on a piece of property.
While Hoffmann is clearly bullish on Avon, his family company’s work in town has brought some controversy, too.
The Hoffmanns and the owners of Montana’s restaurant are in a legal dispute in which the landlords are trying to cancel the restaurant’s lease. The company has drawn criticism for cutting down trees in the area, and the company installed faux shutters at Chapel Square. Those shutters drew intense criticism from condo owners in the upper floors, and the Avon Planning Commission voted in August of 2014 to compel the company to remove the shutters.
But, Fancher said, Avon is better off with the Hoffmanns’ presence.
“There may have been some bumps, but Avon looks better because of their efforts,” she said. “Change is difficult for people in general, but (the family has) significantly improved the town.”
Paul Cuthbertson set out by himself around 3 p.m. Friday from the trailhead that leads up to the Polar Star Inn, according to his father, Mike, but never made it to the popular backcountry hut as a late-spring snowstorm moved in.