Concessions needed for Whole Foods | AspenTimes.com

Concessions needed for Whole Foods

Scott Condon Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT There is a price to pay for attracting a Whole Foods Market to Basalt, according to the developer wooing the grocer. The developers of the Willits Town Center claim they need approval for an additional 85,000 square feet of space for high-end condominiums and lofts to attract the natural foods store. Developer Michael Lipkin said the additional space is needed to create a critical mass of people to shop at the store and to raise funds needed to pay for infrastructure. “The request is tied directly to the willingness of this specialty grocery to locate in Basalt,” the application said. “This additional square footage has been included in their demographic/market analysis.” The Willits Town Center was approved by Basalt in 2001 with 500,000 square feet of commercial and residential development, already making it one of the largest developments in the valley. The developers now need to amend that approval. If town officials approve the request, the Willits Town Center will swell to 585,000 square feet of space for residences, retail shops, restaurants and offices. If town officials reject the request, Whole Foods could opt out of its commitment. Lipkin said his agreement with the company is contingent on the expansion of the project. The project, as approved, doesn’t work for the company. “I certainly don’t have a lease on that basis with them,” Lipkin said. Lipkin and his partner, Chicago-based Joseph Freed and Associates, reached an agreement with Whole Foods in May after 18 months of negotiations. The grocery chain wants to build a 40,000-square-foot store on the Highway 82 side of the Willits development. It would open in early 2010. Basalt would be one of the smallest markets that Whole Foods has ever entered and the first in a mountain resort. The chain has nearly 200 stores in the U.S. and United Kingdom. The increased density in the town center from an additional 85,000 square feet of high-end residential space was a requirement of Whole Foods “given the non-conforming demographics of the valley,” the application continued. The proposal would add 65 free-market units, boosting the total number of lofts and condominiums in the town center to about 200. The units developed so far have proved lucrative. The asking price is $570,690 for two-bedroom, two-bath condo with 1,119 square feet. The developers’ application said sales of the free-market condos and lofts will raise funds needed to provide infrastructure to accommodate Whole Foods. “Bringing this specialty grocer to the valley comes at a cost,” Lipkin’s application said. “They require significant parking and infrastructure.” The developers want to build underground parking structures to accommodate residents and office workers. That will preserve the surface parking for supermarket customers. The additional free-market units are needed to raise the funds for that infrastructure, the application said. In addition to the free-market dwellings, the developers would add 21 affordable-housing units, with varying levels of restrictions on who could buy them. That would boost the total number of affordable-housing units in the town center to 102, the application said. Lipkin makes his pitch to the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission and the Basalt Town Council Tuesday at 6 p.m. Public comments will be accepted at the meeting in Town Hall. The town government fast tracked the review to potentially accommodate the project’s groundbreaking later this summer. Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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