Basalt P&Z advises approval of building at former Clark’s site
Review of 70 apartments, small grocery now heads to the Town Council
Several members of the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission held their noses Tuesday night and voted to recommend approval for a development proposal at a key downtown location.
The planning commission voted 6-1 in favor of a plan for 70 apartments and a 9,157-square-foot grocery store where Clark’s Market used to be located near the intersection of Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road. Despite the favorable outcome, four of the six P&Z members who recommended approval said the project has substantial shortcomings.
Commission member Rob Leavitt said he has heard feedback from the community wondering why Basalt wants to take a building in the style of Willits and plop it downtown. He said the plan for the prime location requires careful scrutiny from the planning commission and Town Council.
“This is going to be the most significant project that any of us and any of them see,” Leavitt said.
Commission member Bill Maron said the proposal meets the goals of Basalt’s 2020 Master Plan but at the lowest possible level.
“I was hoping for something a little more visionary on this site,” Maron said.
He agreed with Leavitt’s comment that the building is out of place in Basalt’s historic downtown. He said he believes it needs refinements in texture, spacing and “feel” to be more fitting in a “small, Western Slope, urban way.”
“This is a very precious site to the town,” Maron said. “It’s a really good project. It could be a great project” with refinements.
Developers Tim Belinski and Andrew Light said the challenges of the site make it hard to meet all expectations. The building, which also was home to City Market before the El Jebel store was completed in the mid-1990s, is confined by a parking lot and property owned by other parties. The layout doesn’t allow redevelopment in a traditional grid or with the building constructed along Midland Avenue, the town’s main street, Belinski said. Another challenge is the property is part of a 14-member owners’ association.
“That site is complicated,” Belinski said. “It’s been dormant for 10 years, since Clark’s Market left.”
The developers want to tear down the existing 24,500-square-foot building and then build the grocery on the ground floor with apartments on three upper levels. Eleven of the apartments would be deed-restricted affordable housing.
The development team feels it came up with a good proposal for the site. It provides housing to add density and vitality to downtown, Belinski said. It also provides a grocery store, which many residents in and near the core of Basalt said they want on their side of town. It improves parking.
He noted that compliance with the master plan is the critical advantage of the project. It will include space outside the grocery store that will be a public gathering spot, he said.
When asked at the meeting if the property could accommodate food trucks to bring a different feel downtown, Belinski responded, “I think anything goes. We’re looking for that vibrant market vibe and not just a chocolate-and-vanilla grocery store.”
Planning commissioner Geno Rossetti said the developers did the best they could do, given the layout and jumble of property owners in the area.
“It’s difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” Rossetti said.
Despite reservations from several commission members, the proposal earned the recommendation for approval and advances to the Town Council on a date to be determined.
Commission members Rossetti, Leavitt, Maron as well as Michelle Thibeault, Eric Vozick and Kyle Oberkoetter voted to recommend that the Town Council approve the project. Commissioner Cindy Hirschfeld opposed.
Thibeault summed up the majority feeling when she said the new building in historic downtown needs refinements, such as a “nod” to Basalt’s railroad town past in its architecture.
“I think there’s going to be pushback if it doesn’t develop a little bit further,” she said.
Aspen City Council approved a contract with Daniel Joseph (DJ) Watkins during Tuesday’s regular meeting to move forward with his intentions to operate his proposed “Aspen Collective,” which is currently occupied by Mia Valley’s Valley Fine Art.