Whole Foods heads up midvalleys stalled projects | AspenTimes.com

Whole Foods heads up midvalleys stalled projects

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO, Colorado

BASALT A little more than one year ago officials with the town of Basalt and Eagle County were concerned about an overwhelming level of development activity under way or in the pipeline in the midvalley.The national credit crunch has brought that frenzy to a screeching halt. The highest-profile project, the Whole Foods Market building at Willits Town Center, was shut down by developer Joseph Freed & Associates on Labor Day weekend. Construction companies and providers of materials filed nearly $8 million in liens this month for bills they claim havent been paid by Joseph Freed & Associates.Virtually across the highway, a high-end luxury townhouse project pursued by a Texas development firm has stalled after only one-third of the units were completed. Shadowrock has about $3 million in liens filed against it by contractors and suppliers. But its not all gloom and doom in the midvalley. One major project is plowing ahead with construction and developers of other projects claim they will advance once they acquire final approvals from Basalt or Eagle County.Following is a rundown of the status of some of the major projects:

Location: Willits Town Center in West BasaltActivity level: Stalled after the foundation was poured and some of the infrastructure installed. Whole Foods Market has a contract for a 44,000-square-foot grocery store on the ground level. Affordable housing is approved for the upper two levels. The contract requires developer Joseph Freed & Associates to deliver the shell of the building to Whole Foods in June 2009. Thats not going to happen.Status: Seven liens totaling $7.8 million were filed this month against Joseph Freed & Associates, according to documents filed with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder. Clayco, the general contractor on the job, filed a $4.68 million lien for work on the Whole Foods buildings. Other liens were filed by construction firms or providers of materials. They include: Pioneer Steel, $1.37 million; Midwest Steel, $1.23 million; RMS Concrete $752,200; LaFarge West, $251,830; Aspen Earthmoving, $182,919; and Summit Roofing, $85,000.In addition, Clayco filed two liens for $662,377 for allegedly unpaid bills for work on other parts of Willits Town Center. Tim Belinski, the local representative of Chicago-based Joseph Freed & Associates, said the firm is trying to arrange financing and intends to resume construction as soon as possible. The developer hopes to extend its contract with Whole Foods. It is uncertain if reopening negotiations will change the size of the supermarket.Outlook: Joseph Freed & Associates is among the biggest developers in the country, so its troubles at Willits indicate the severity of the credit crunch and national recession. Smart money says Whole Foods will build a smaller grocery store than the 44,000-square foot approved at Willits if the deal moves forward.

Location: El JebelActivity level: Stalled after construction of 30 units. 100 were approved.Status: As of mid-November, $1.2 million in liens had been filed by contractors and sub-contractors who said they hadnt been paid. R.A. Nelson, the general contractor on the project, filed the bulk of those liens.Since then, nearly $1.8 million in additional liens have been filed by companies seeking payment, according to statements filed with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder.The new liens include $1,001,957 by Heyl LLC, an excavation firm; $429,498 by E.C. Electric; $288,188 by Mountain Air Mechanical; $28,153 by Sturgeon Electric of Colorado Inc.; and $51,050 by Trulove Excavating.Larry Vineyard, a representative of the ownership group, said in November that attorneys for his firm were working on an agreement with the construction firms. David Heyl, owner of Heyl LLC, said he had been offered 75 cents on the dollar for work performed. Negotiations are ongoing, he said.Outlook: On hold until the bills are paid, relations are repaired with construction firms and financing secured.

Location: The Ace Lane property near the water ski pond, across Highway 82 from the El Jebel City MarketActivity level: In the planning stage. Review by the Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, a branch of Eagle County government, begins in January. Lane is seeking approval for 249 residences and nearly 95,000 square feet of commercial space.Status: Lane said earlier this year that he had bought out his family business, Lane Industries Inc., as a partner and gained more control of the project. He is teaming with one of his brothers and said they have the financing to move forward if the project gets approved.Outlook: A similar application was withdrawn in 2006 when approval by the Eagle County commissioners looked unlikely. Lane and his team believe refinements improve the new application.

Location: Along Willits Lane adjacent to the Aspen-Basalt Mobile Home Park.Activity level: Construction under way on second of nine buildings that will combine 84,000 square feet commercial and residential uses.Status: So far, so good. It is one of the few large projects to keep going as the state of the economy worsened.Outlook: Steve Crowley and his financial backers said this fall they have the financing to continue building. It all boils down to demand.

Location: Scattered in different neighborhoodsActivity level: Three projects have recently received the second of three approvals needs from the Basalt Town Council. The final approval is essentially technical detail handled by the engineering and building departments.Status: The Flying Fish/Pokorny Project would include redevelopment of the old Flying Fish Lodge building along the Fryingpan River with 17,572 square feet in two buildings. There would be nine residences and about 1,100 square feet of commercial space. The Pokorny property in the Southside area would have 26 residences in two buildings. Developers John and Doug Olson said in a recent Basalt Town Council meeting they will be ready to break ground once they secure final approval.The Basalt Bluffs project would add 13 residences, including four affordable housing units, next to Aspen Junction. Developer Mark Kwiecienski said he wants to start developing in 2009 after securing final approval.Stotts Mill has 110 affordable housing residences in the Southside area of Basalt. The developers expressed concerns in a Basalt Town Council meeting last fall about the length of the time in the review process and the changing financial climate.Outlook: Final approvals are virtually certain for all three projects in 2009, so construction will depend on financing.scondon@aspentimes.com

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