Developer tests waters for hotel, arts center on Pan and Fork property in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Developer tests waters for hotel, arts center on Pan and Fork property in Basalt

Lowe Enterprises is testing the waters for a proposal to add a condominium-hotel and arts center in Basalt at the old Pan and Fork property.

A development firm with an option to buy the controversial Pan and Fork property in Basalt wants to build a 55,000-square-foot condominium-hotel and a new arts center for a local nonprofit.

Lowe Enterprises sent a letter Tuesday to Basalt planning director Susan Philp asking to start a "pre-development application process" with the town for the project.

Using just over an acre of land, Lowe is proposing the hotel and a separate 15,000-square-foot structure to house the nonprofit Art Base and also a restaurant, meeting room and small retail space. Art Base is a community art facility currently in the former library building in Lions Park.

"Lowe would construct the Destination Hotel, and it would be operated by the Lowe affiliate Destination/Two Roads Hotels," Lowe President Jim DeFrancia wrote in the letter.

"The Art Base site would be dedicated by Lowe to the Art Base organization, with a Lowe financial commitment for a portion of the construction, the balance of construction costs being the obligation of the Art Base," the letter continued.

About 10,000 square feet of the building would be dedicated to the Art Base for gallery space, workshop, meeting space and administrative offices.

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Lowe's plan would cover 1.3 acres of the 2.3 acres adjacent to Two Rivers Road and owned by Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. Lowe anticipates building the hotel near the Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center. The Art Base would be to the east, toward downtown.

"The remaining approximate 1-acre portion would be available for public acquisition by the town for addition to the park land already owned by the town, located between the CDC parcel and the river," the letter states.

The town owns the land adjacent to the Roaring Fork River and is working on a riverside park.

Basalt voters rejected buying the entire Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. parcel for $3.1 million in the November election. Most recently, the council has been studying how to acquire the property with existing funds.

The controversy over the Pan and Fork property has raged for years.

A town study determined that the former mobile home park on the property was in danger of flooding. Voters approved a proposal called Fix the Fork in November 2013 to provide funds for riverbed work to ease the flooding threat, prepare some of the site for possible development and relocate hundreds of residents.

The 35 trailers were removed in 2013-14. Lowe contracted with Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. to buy the land, but its initial development plan was met with widespread opposition.

The town is divided on whether the property should be used for development to revitalize the downtown commercial core or create a legacy park. The council has been equally divided.

Lowe's idea could test Basalt's ability to reach a compromise.

DeFrancia proposed building underground parking to serve the hotel and art center and provide public spaces. He said it would have to be financed through a Tax Increment Financing program, which would require the town's blessing.

In return for helping provide a permanent home to the Art Base, Lowe will ask the town to waive any affordable obligations and to "forgo any reimbursement of prior town expenditures for earlier site improvements associated with removal of the prior Pan and Fork trailer park," according to the letter.

No immediate reaction was available from town officials. The next Town Council meeting is Tuesday.

DeFrancia said Lowe officials look forward to engaging the town in a pre-application discussion to try to reach an agreement on key elements. If the agreement can be reached, a formal application will be submitted.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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