City Market still holding out for a new Carbondale store | AspenTimes.com

City Market still holding out for a new Carbondale store

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – City Market wants to build a modern, more efficient and better-stocked store at the Village at Crystal River site – to the north of its existing store in Carbondale – and has for the last decade, a real estate representative for the regional grocery chain said.

The Denver-based grocer still doesn’t have anything in writing with developer Rich Schierburg to relocate to the yet-to-be approved development site.

But its plans all along have been to wait for the large mixed-use project that’s planned for 24 acres northwest of the Highway 133/Main Street intersection to gain final approval from the town of Carbondale, according to Joel Starbuck, assistant director of real estate for King Soopers/City Market.

“One of the problems we’ve had with the Carbondale store is that Crystal River has been on the table in various forms for more than 10 years,” said Starbuck, who was invited by Schierburg to address the Carbondale Board of Trustees at a continued public hearing on the proposal Tuesday night.

“There is a reason we’ve neglected the Carbondale store, and it’s because we want to be at Crystal River,” he said of inadequacies associated with the current 45,000 square-foot store compared to other nearby City Market stores in Basalt and Glenwood Springs.

“We don’t want to put a large investment into a store that we’re going to replace,” Starbuck said.

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City Market would presumably fill the 60,000 square-foot grocer space that’s planned as part of the larger project. The proposal calls for a total of 125,000 square feet of commercial space and up to 268 residential units, plus about 16,000 square feet of office space.

A new store at the Village at Crystal River would have a number advantages over the existing store, Starbuck said.

First, City Market leases the space it’s in now, where it would own the new site, he said. The existing L-shaped store was also two spaces combined into one during a remodel in the mid-1990s, and is one of the more expensive of the 31 City Market stores on the Western Slope to operate, he said.

A new, larger store would allow the Carbondale City Market to carry more perishables, including organic products, similar to the Basalt (El Jebel) store. It would also increase the employment needs from about 100-110 workers now to around 130-140.

“The present store is behind the times, and it is in our best interests to go to Crystal River with a store that works well for everyone,” Starbuck said.

Trustees asked how a proposed Public Improvements Fee (PIF), which is proposed to pay for more than $6 million in on- and off-site public infrastructure, would affect the grocery store, since it would be passed on as a consumer sales tax.

“It really doesn’t have a lot of effect on us, and we’ve worked with a PIF in the past,” Starbuck said.

The PIF, along with a proposed property tax-funded special improvements district with a levy of up to 30 mills proposed by Schierburg, was the other key topic of discussion Tuesday night.

“The district is crucial, and I can say that without it this project will not get off the ground,” Schierburg said.

A majority of trustees said they are OK with the proposed funding mechanism.

Mayor Stacey Patch Bernot said the pass-along fees are the costs of choosing the so-called “character” plan over Schierburg’s optional “commerce” plan two years ago. The latter plan would have included a larger, big-box style anchor tenant in addition to the grocery store.

“Frankly, there is a cost to the character plan,” Bernot said. “We all know where we stood on that, and this is part of what we’re getting when we choose character over commerce.”

The public hearing was continued until the June 29 meeting. Remaining issues to be discussed include a proposed 42-foot building height allowance for two of the interior buildings, conditional use review for schools, affordable housing, open space, phasing and Highway 133 improvements.

jstroud@postindependent.com