Basalt committee urges bold moves to spur downtown revitalization | AspenTimes.com

Basalt committee urges bold moves to spur downtown revitalization

A citizens' committee studying how to revitalize downtown Basalt will advise the council to relocate Town Hall(left) and Basalt Chamber of Commerce's red caboose out of Lions Park. The report will also recommend relocating Wyly Art Center, not pictured.

The Basalt Town Council will be advised to relocate Town Hall, the Wyly Art Center and the Chamber of Commerce's red caboose from Lions Park as part of a citizen committee's plan to revitalize downtown.

The Downtown Area Advisory Committee will recommend that the town pursue a land swap that would surrender a portion of Lions Park in return for a developable chunk of the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. The idea is to keep more of the former mobile-home park as open space and keep the Roaring Fork River more accessible while still allowing dense development.

A final report by the committee will be polished Wednesday and presented to the council Dec. 16. The Town Council appointed the committee to help set direction on five key downtown parcels.

Committee members said they felt the town has the best ability to make something happen at Lions Park because the government owns it. Removing the buildings — or keeping them there — is a "game changer," said committee member Greg Shugars.

The park is directly across the street from the former Pan and Fork site, a key piece of land in Basalt's future. The town government owns about 2.6 acres closest to the Roaring Fork River. It is constructing a riverside park.

The nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. owns the other 2.6 acres of the Pan and Fork site, closest to Two Rivers Road. It has a contract with development firm Lowe Enterprises, which is working on a plan for a hotel and residences. Lowe Enterprises President James DeFrancia said in meeting that the firm intends to keep the eastern third of the property open to enhance access to the town park and river.

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The advisory committee's plan could keep even more land open between Two Rivers Road and the river. The trade bait would be the western edge of Lions Park and the sliver of property where the recycling center used to be located. The town also owns that site.

Advisory committee member Julie Kolar said she checked with Town Manager Mike Scanlon and confirmed that a land swap isn't a "pie in the sky" idea.

"Yes, it's a big deal, but it's not impossible by any stretch," Kolar said.

There were no suggestions of where Town Hall, the chamber's office and the Wyly would relocate.

Shugars pressed hardest for wording in the report for prohibiting development on the eastern edge of the Community Development Corp. property, even if a land swap doesn't work. He said he believes it is vital to Basalt's future to keep a view corridor open to the river while moving south on Midland Avenue, the town's main street.

"When I'm saying no development there, it's not about me," Shugars said. Allowing development there would be an irreversible step, he added.

Shugars noted how important the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers are to the town's identity.

"If we want to call ourselves a river town, we need to reconnect to the river," he said.

The nine-member committee decided against advising in the report to prohibit development on the Pan and Fork site opposite Lions Park. Instead, the report will emphasize seeking a land swap. Preserving significant physical and visual access to the Roaring Fork River will be a key component of the report.

The other key components will be:

• Connecting the town to the rivers.

• Improving Lions Park.

• Allowing density in appropriate places to drive revitalization.

• Providing a "there-there" destination in the town that attracts both residents and guests.

The committee was reduced from 10 to nine members because of the resignation of Chairman Chris Touchette. He said CCY Architects, where he is a principal, was hired by Lowe Enterprises to work on the hotel proposal. Touchette said he conferred with Scanlon and determined he should resign from the citizen committee.

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