Hudson dealership in Silverthorne gets new life as landowner works on purchase agreement
Questions regarding what will become of one of Silverthorne’s most prominent, vacant downtown properties have an answer, at least for the moment.
On Wednesday, the owner of the now-closed Hudson Auto Source and her attorney successfully lobbied Silverthorne Town Council to allow the former body shop manager of the dealership to open a new body shop inside the building where he used to work.
The business that James Thomas wants to run out of the old car dealership — an auto body service called J’s Body Shop — comes in direct conflict with the town’s long-term plans for the downtown core as Silverthorne aims to transform the area into a thriving, pedestrian friendly hub for commercial and social activity.
Given the 40-year history of the dealership at that location and perimeters of the agreement reached at Wednesday’s council meeting, however, town officials didn’t see the shop as too hard a lift.
The Hudson building has sat dormant since June, when owner Lynne Hudson McMahon decided to close the dealership, sell the property to a developer and retire from the business to relocate with her family.
But that developer and town officials soon butted heads over the developer’s plans for the parcel, namely the lack of commercial assets in the blueprints and the sale fell through.
On Wednesday, McMahon came before town council hoping to work out a different agreement that would produce the necessary permitting Thomas needs to open his own business while other pieces of the negotiations focused on framing a process for the eventual rezoning of the Hudson property.
During discussions, McMahon told council that, because of the dealership, she already has the permits she needs to operate an auto body shop on-site, as Hudson had been doing that kind of work for decades.
The existing permits were non-transferrable, though, and as a give, McMahon volunteered to let the existing permits expire in exchange for a new one that included her and Thomas.
McMahon also asked the new permit be given a window of two to four years, as she pointed out that the existing permits for the dealership that she was willing to let go of have no sunset date.
“If it’s denied, then she opens up tomorrow, and there is no time limit — it’s business as usual,” Jack Reutzel, McMahon’s attorney, told council. “We’re here to try to get everyone to a point where you may move forward in recognizing the town core and that she has a bridge.”
Explaining her reasons for the timeframe, McMahon told the elected officials that she hoped to secure permitting for Thomas’ auto body shop for a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years, as she’s again working to sell the downtown property to another developer.
McMahon said J’s Body Shop would be “the bridge” she needs to get to that sale, which she anticipates will take at least 24 months to finalize, perhaps longer depending on all the legal details. Because the sale could take longer than two years, McMahon pushed for the four-year ceiling.
At the same time, Thomas said he wanted at least two years to ensure he can recoup the cost of setting up shop, and he’ll look to secure another location once the property has been sold. On Thursday, Thomas said he’s already started looking for such a location.
“It would be a four-year hard stop,” Reutzel said, explaining that if McMahon and the developer close on the sale sooner than that, Thomas could have to move before the full four years is up.
Town officials have shown a keen interest in the parcel of real estate that sits in the epicenter of the town core.
At the corner of Adams Avenue and Fifth Street, it’s across the street from the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center and adjacent to the Fourth Street Crossing project, described as the next major piece in the puzzle for achieving Silverthorne’s goals for downtown.
Undoubtedly, an auto body shop isn’t what the town wants there, but council was agreeable to the short-term plan. Council members said they would rather see people in the building than it sitting empty awaiting a sale.
On Thursday, Thomas described his designs for J’s Body Shop. He wants it to be warm and welcoming, the kind of place where the atmosphere and employees can ease customers’ anxieties following a car collision.
“Most body shops are cold, sterile environments,” Thomas said.
Instead, he’s trying to create a calm, harmonious shop that’s interior produces an almost hippie-like vibe with its decor.
Thomas is currently looking to hire staff and setting up the shop. He said he hopes to open in early March.
At full tilt, the new body shop could employ as many as eight to 10 people, said Thomas, who added that he’s grateful to McMahon and her mother, Lorraine Hudson, for giving him the opportunity.
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