City Market could spark midvalley gas price war
City Market is working on a proposal that could spark a midvalley gas price war while adding incentive to shop at its grocery stores.
The chain plans to apply to the town of Basalt to open a discount gas station as early as this year at the Orchard Plaza shopping center in El Jebel.
That station would be open to the public, but offer a 5-cent-per-gallon discount to customers who use a City Market Value Card, according to John Caldwell, the company’s director of real estate development. Value Cards are now used by grocery shoppers to earn discounts on specially marked items and after certain amounts of purchases have been made.
City Market is eyeing the discount gas stations as a way to stay one step ahead of the competition on the Western Slope. One station is already operating in conjunction with the supermarket in Montrose. Eleven more gas stations have been proposed, including one in El Jebel, said Caldwell.
While the concept helps build loyalty to City Market, it also benefits consumers because it forces more competitive pricing among gas stations, Caldwell said. He believes it would be eagerly accepted in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“It’s understored,” said Caldwell of the midvalley. “Consumers are pretty much stuck paying whatever prices are charged for gas.”
Caldwell said the City Market gas station wouldn’t sell groceries or convenience items, or provide automotive service. It would consist only of a kiosk, a canopy and four islands with gas pumps.
The station would be located on the upvalley side of the Orchard Plaza commercial complex, where the El Jebel City Market is located.
City Market paid $1.25 million for a vacant lot there to prevent the developer from adding 23,000 additional square feet of commercial space. Caldwell said the grocery chain didn’t want the already overcrowded parking lot to get worse.
The gas station would require only two or so parking spots for employees.
Although Orchard Plaza is widely perceived to be part of El Jebel, the gas station site is in Basalt and would need approval from the Town Council.
City Market will make a pitch that the Basalt store needs any help it can get to stay competitive as the valley grows.
“We not only protect the store, we help protect the town’s revenue stream,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell claimed his preapplication discussions about the gas station with town government staff weren’t exactly encouraging.
“They’re just as negative as they can be about it,” he said. “We’re more than a little disappointed.”
Staff members noted that City Market would have to meet criteria in the new master plan, such as employee housing. Caldwell indicated he felt the town was contemplating too cumbersome a process.
Basalt Town Manager Tom Baker said the staff wasn’t trying to discourage City Market or prejudge an application. Discussions were merely intended to make it clear there are concerns with a gas station operating next to Sopris Village, a residential neighborhood. Those concerns could include issues like lighting and hours of operation, he said.
“It’s not that we don’t like City Market. It’s that we have concerns about neighborhood impacts,” said Baker.
Caldwell was uncertain when City Market will complete an application for the gas station. He said he received materials necessary to start the application last week.
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