Basalt group hopes to save taco joint, provide housing |

Basalt group hopes to save taco joint, provide housing

Save the tacos, become a developer.That’s part of the strategy of a handful of civic activists andbusinessmen in Basalt. The group, which is incorporating a development company, hopes to save the popular Taqueria el Nopal restaurant from extinction and build some affordable housing.ParkPlace Development Corp. will be a for-profit company that builds affordable residential and commercial spaces on land it hopes to buy from the town of Basalt, said Jim Paussa, a town resident who hatched the idea.ParkPlace will make an offer to buy the property, which is part of the Levinson parcel near downtown Basalt, at market rate, Paussa said. The development firm will keep rents and sale prices affordable by accepting a lower profit margin than typical developers, he explained.The group outlined its plan to the Town Council this week but received little feedback. The town will likely make the part of the Levinson parcel it’s willing to sell open to any developer via a bid process, according to Town Manager Bill Efting.Jon Fox-Rubin, a former councilman and part of the ParkPlace team, pitched the plan as one that could benefit the town. “This is a development for the community by the community,” he said.He handed out a memo that explained the group is concerned that a significant amount of worker housing will be lost when the Pan and Fork, and Roaring Fork mobile home parks get redeveloped. Both trailer parks are at least partially at risk from flooding. The town government wants those trailers removed from harm’s way.The group is also worried about losing businesses as upscale development forces rents up. “When affordable commercial spaces are lost, the difficulty of starting and growing a local business increases, and we often lose them,” said the ParkPlace memo.Paussa told The Aspen Times he is concerned that the only type of development Basalt experiences anymore is of the “typical resort mentality” that focuses on the upper end. “There’s nobody paying attention to the lower end in this market,” he said.The town master plan and all candidates in elections say they want a diverse housing stock and selection of businesses, but little is done to support that goal, claimed Paussa. “This is crunch time for Basalt. It’s either time to put up or shut up,” he said.Fox-Rubin said ParkPlace is seeking “philanthropic investors” who are willing to accept a lower profit margin for the sake of community benefit. The group also hopes to receive pro bono work or reduced fees from architects and contractors to hold its costs down.If the concept works, the group wants to install a mix of high-efficiency, premanufactured residential and commercial units where Taqueria el Nopal is currently located along Two Rivers Road, west of Town Hall. Long-term leases would be offered to tenants with the option to buy.Fox-Rubin said the goal would be to build between five and 15 residential units and three commercial spaces.Town officials are uncertain when the Levinson parcel will be offered for sale. The town bought the property in order to develop a park along the Roaring Fork River, which it is doing. It was always the town’s intent to resell the part of the property along Two Rivers Road in order to recoup some of the purchase price.Some of that property has already been sold to the Roaring Fork Conservancy for use as an education center. The Basalt library has considered using adjacent land. The town also planned to make an undefined portion of the land available to a free-market developer.Paussa stressed that ParkPlace Development Corp. isn’t looking for a taxpayer subsidy. It will offer market value for the land and won’t seek a government subsidy for construction.Paussa said ParkPlace is also prepared to compete against other developers in a bidding process to acquire the land.”We’re pretty comfortable we can raise the money and make it happen,” said Fox-Rubin.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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