Basalt council votes to fill the ‘black hole’ downtown

Proposal for 67 apartments and small grocery store earns 6-0 approval

The proposed project at the former Clark’s Market space is intended to bring vitality to downtown Basalt.
Courtesy image

Basalt is prepared to fill what has been dubbed the “black hole” at the gateway to downtown.

The Town Council voted 6-0 to grant sketch plan approval for a project that will replace the former Clark’s Market space in Basalt Center Circle. It was the first in a two-step review process.

“You’ve definitely been listening and working toward a great project,” said Councilman Ryan Slack, who had expressed concerns in earlier meetings.

Developers Tim Belinski and Andrew Light plan to demolish the existing 30,000-square-foot commercial building and replace it with 67 apartments and a 9,000-square-foot hybrid grocery store and food hall. Clark’s Market vacated the space in June 2014. It was briefly occupied by a Habitat for Humanity ReStore but has sat vacant for years.

Over the course of five meetings by the council, Light and Belinski made several major revisions to try to earn approval for their project. They increased the number of rent-controlled units to 17 from 11. They recently pledged to require rentals of at least six months for the 50 free-market units.

“This is a workforce housing project,” Light said. “This is what you read about all day long that people need.”

They also eliminated one floor and reduced the building from four stories to three to get under the maximum allowable height. Scott McHale of Z-Group Architects said 73% of the building would be below 39 feet, 6 inches. Gables and other architectural features would reach no higher than 45 feet. The maximum allowable height at the site is 49 feet.

In addition, the developers made various pledges to ensure the grocery store gets built within nine months of completion of the first apartment unit. Before any certificate of occupancy is issued, the developers must have a contract with a grocery operator, the operator must submit an application for a tenant finish of the space, and the developers must put $250,000 in escrow that would be surrendered to the town if the conditions weren’t met.

Councilman Bill Infante credited the developers for their changes. He urged them to work with the town staff on a broader definition of a grocery store with the goal to accommodate small businesses and creative use of the space. He was concerned the existing definition was too confining and would favor a chain operator.

“As much as I love our grocery stores, and they generate a lot of sales tax for us, that’s not what we want on Midland,” Infante said.

The project received several favorable comments and a handful of ones in opposition during public comment. Basalt resident John Black called the project the “ideal solution” for Basalt’s “black hole.”

Town resident Todd Hartley said he wished the redevelopment project could have incorporated surrounding properties such as the Aspenalt Lodge and contributed more to town than another grocery store and 67 apartments.

“Before it’s too late, I’d like to implore everyone in the room to aim higher,” Hartley said. He later added, “We’ve had many opportunities in Basalt to do world-class things. And each time we settle on something kind of OK.”

Belinski said they explored acquiring other properties but the owners were content keeping their holdings. In answering other questions from the public, he said they would work to incorporate two existing businesses in the Clark’s building into the new building — Jimbo’s Liquor and the BLT restaurant.

In addition, Belinski said the apartments would have on-site management that enforces the ban on short-term rentals.

The developers’ made so many refinements over the course of the review that the council’s deliberations Tuesday night lasted only a few minutes.

“I’m good with the amendments you made,” Councilman David Knight said. “I think they clarify things.”

Councilwoman Elyse Hottel recused herself because the firm she works for has worked with the applicants. She hasn’t participated in any of the review sessions.

The project will come back to the council for the final review on a date to be determined, but likely months away.