‘Big box’ back on the table | AspenTimes.com

‘Big box’ back on the table

John Colson

Carbondale’s trustees have invited Home Depot to come in January and talk about locating a store at the embattled Crystal River Marketplace project.The town issued the invitation at the end of a lengthy town meeting on Nov. 28, in a directive to CRMP developer Rich Schierburg.While there was no formal vote at the meeting, the invitation clearly put the idea of a “big-box” retail store back on the table for the embattled development proposal at the corner of Highway 133 and Main Street.Schierburg, who said he has been in close contact with the building supply chain about putting a store in Carbondale, said his talks with the company have been substantive and have reached the stage of “talking about letters of intent.”Home Depot did not return calls Wednesday from The Aspen Times, but in early November, a chain spokeswoman confirmed the company is looking at putting a store in Carbondale.Dozens of local citizens attended the trustees meeting in hopes of expressing their feelings about having a big-box store. Only one man, local chiropractor Scott Tesoro, was able to chime in on the discussion, though. Speaking during the time reserved for citizen comments, he told the trustees he was “not crazy about” the prospect of a big-box store, largely because he felt it would vastly increase traffic on Colorado highways 133 and 82, and asked the board to consider the proposal carefully. Public comment was not permitted later in the meeting, when the trustees met with Schierburg and consultant Dan Guimond.Development of the Marketplace had been the subject of a hard-fought citizen initiative in 2003, when voters overwhelmingly rejected the development proposal of property owner Brian Huster. Huster had indicated he planned to bring Target or a similar retailer as the main anchor for a large-scale commercial project on the 24-acre Marketplace site.Schierburg, manager of the Denver-based Peregrine Group Development LLC, has said his company is poised to buy the Marketplace site from Huster and take over the development.Before the 2003 vote, the Marketplace plans called for 252,000 square feet of commercial space, anchored by a 125,000-square-foot site for a big-box retailer. This was the second proposal from Huster, who bought the 22-acre property on Highway 133 from Colorado Rocky Mountain School in 1999. The town also rejected his first development proposal.In the wake of the 2003 vote, the town created the Road Map Group review process, which lasted more than a year and yielded two development options for the property, which was unveiled last summer.Option 1, the “preferred” development option in the Economic Road Map Group recommendations, includes a 60,000-square-foot grocery store anchor with a potential for a larger store with special review; three “junior anchor” stores totaling about 75,000 square feet; and auxiliary commercial creating about 170,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. Option 1 also includes about 88 townhomes and condominiums.Option 2 also includes a 60,000-square-foot grocery store anchor with about 30,000 square feet of other commercial space, totaling about 90,000 square feet of commercial development. But it increases the number of residential units to 168.Option 3, introduced formally this week at the council meeting, calls for 200,000 square feet of commercial space – a 100,000-square-foot “large-format retail anchor,” a 60,000-square-foot grocery store and 40,000 square feet of smaller retail spaces.Schierburg told trustees at the meeting he has talked with 61 “junior anchor” stores, none of which were interested in a Carbondale location. He said the big-box retailer that has shown interest, Home Depot, might be willing to come and talk with town officials in January.He also told the trustees he could “live with” some version of Option 2, should that be the town’s preference, but approvals would have to permit more residential development if it were to be financially feasible.Some trustees were reluctant, pointing out that in the past the town has approved too much residential growth, which cost the town in terms of provision of services, without also approving commercial growth to provide tax revenues to pay for those services.The discussion also covered a variety of collateral issues, ranging from questions about what kind of tax revenues might be expected from different levels of development, to whether a “memorandum of understanding” would be advisable for laying out the framework for future Marketplace-related discussions.No formal votes were taken regarding the CRMP project or the process for future discussions.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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