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Commercial center in the works at ABC

Eben Harrell

In the coming years, the Aspen Business Center may see a new commercial center for residents, including a major food store such as Wild Oats or Whole Foods Market in the offing. Developer John McBride, who spearheaded the construction of the North 40 worker housing complex next to the ABC, said he is revisiting plans originally made in 1991 to build a commercial center between Highway 82 and the soccer field adjacent to the Colorado Mountain College campus.The Aspen Business Center is located off Highway 82, opposite the Pitkin County Airport. It contains a mix of housing, service-oriented businesses, offices and a few retailers.When McBride received permission from the county to construct North 40 in the ’90s, the application included a provision for a commercial center. While plans for the new center were scrapped, the current commercial complex, which houses Alpine Market, Cecily’s Restaurant and Airport Liquor among other businesses, is a “dumb building” that’s not ideal for local residents, McBride said.”We’re sort of in a dream stage for this right now for a new center,” McBride said. “We’re looking at a new commercial center with a pedestrian square. I can’t say more than that, because we don’t know any more yet.”McBride said the new commercial center would target residents in North 40 and ABC housing and not be designed to service nearby Burlingame Ranch, should that housing project move forward. There is, however, a plan for an eventual bike/pedestrian path linking Burlingame to the ABC to the north.”It’s our center. Burlingame really needs its own such community store,” he said.McBride said existing businesses at ABC would be given first look should the new center go ahead. “We don’t like to kick people out who are doing a good job now,” McBride said.Bill Carr, the manager of 20-year ABC retailer Airport Liquor, said McBride has been talking to store owners about potentially moving to a new site.”It seems fine to me. When you change space, you often see a 20 percent jump in business. It’s not a huge deal for us,” Carr said.Word of the new development has already sparked speculation among ABC and North 40 residents about what stores might move in. Many residents have heard rumors that McBride is courting a major organic food store such as Wild Oats. McBride said no such negotiations have taken place, but he said such a store remains a possibility.Other ideas by local residents continue to flourish.”Any improvement to consumer quantity or quality would be welcome around here. Tell them to put in some tennis courts,” ABC resident and tennis pro Steve Sand said.”I think this will be great. The parking’s no good right now at the current site. A Whole Foods or something would be great. I’d also like to see a medical office move in,” North 40 homeowner and chiropractor Eric Haynie said.Lance Clarke, Pitkin County’s deputy director of community development, confirmed McBride is in the early stages of seeking approval for the commercial development. “I’m drafting a pre-application for him right now,” Clarke said.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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