October 13, 2006
The midvalley is on the front end of what could be an unprecedented surge of development.Recently approved projects, along with development applications that are just entering the government review pipeline, could add roughly 1,675 residences and 600,000 square feet of commercial space to the Basalt and El Jebel areas, according to an analysis of land use applications by The Aspen Times.That is the cumulative effect of the 12 largest projects looming in the two areas. Some of the projects, like the Willits residential neighborhood and the Willits Town Center, are approved and under construction.Other projects in that mix have their government approvals in hand and just are waiting for the developers to break ground, such as a 54-unit condominium-hotel located along the Basalt Bypass.The fate of half of the big projects is up in the air, depending on decisions by the Eagle County commissioners and Basalt Town Council. This fall and winter, meeting agendas will be dominated by reviews of projects.The developments inevitably will have a big impact on life in the midvalley. Basalt government expects to remain busy enough that it is considering adding a person to its planning staff in 2007, according to town manager Bill Efting.Some business owners have welcomed the prospect of more patrons. For example, Veranda Collection owner Kathleen Cole stressed, at a Basalt meeting last month, that the Roaring Fork Club members make it possible for some businesses to survive. She spoke in favor of the private golf club’s expansion, in part because of the economic benefits to businesses like her home furnishings store.But, the prospect of drastic growth has some midvalley residents fighting development approvals. The Tavaci plan in El Jebel, which would add 245 residences and 94,000 square feet of commercial space, has been criticized for the traffic it would add to the midvalley.
“I really don’t see how more is better,” said El Jebel resident Kris McKelvey at a recent public hearing on Tavaci held by the Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission.Willits leads the chargeLeading the charge in the surge of midvalley development is the Willits project in an area that’s officially West Basalt, but that many people consider El Jebel. Although the project was approved years ago, it was included in the Times’ analysis because so much remains to be built.Basalt approved 550 single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums in the Willits residential neighborhoods. Roughly half of the those units are built.Another 400 lofts and condos plus 250,000 square feet of commercial space is approved in the Willits Town Center, where construction is just getting started.Expect the dirt to fly at an accelerated pace in the town center. Joseph Freed and Associates, a national development firm based in the Chicago area, bought into the project last month for an initial price of $20 million. It immediately secured a $34 million construction loan.Approved but unbuilt projectsFour other major projects have been approved by Eagle County or Basalt but haven’t been built yet. They include Willits Bend, 92,000 square feet of space for craftsmen and light industrial businesses with residential mixed in on the upper floors of buildings.Steve Crowley’s project is in the Basalt business center next to the Aspen-Basalt Mobile Home Park. It is unrelated to the other Willits projects.
Also in that neighborhood is the Midvalley Wellness building where Dr. Dave Jensen plans to relocate his thriving chiropractic business and build other health-oriented offices. The 23,000 square-foot office building will also have eight residences.Along the Basalt Bypass, upvalley from Stubbies bar, the town government has approved an office building and hotel. Architect Harry Teague is constructing an 8,000-square-foot building with a residential loft on top.Chicago developer and Aspen hotelier Ron Richmond has approval for a 54-unit, 48,000-square-foot condominium hotel. He hasn’t broken ground after acquiring approvals late last winter.In El Jebel, a development firm from Dallas is digging into a rocky hillside that resembles the terrain on Iwo Jima to build a 100-unit luxury townhouse project called Shadowrock. Those units are expected to be priced beginning in the high $600,000s.Shadowrock caught the ire of many speakers at recent hearings for Tavaci, which is located next door. Some speakers asked how Shadowrock “snuck” through the process. In fact, the approvals date back to 1994, when the project was known as Blue Ridge.The previous owners, Kevin and Tammy Tucker, altered their plan in 2000 for the 100 townhouses. Twice during the life of the project the approvals were scheduled to expire. Each time the Eagle County commissioners breathed new life into Blue Ridge by granting extensions. The latest life saver was tossed to the project in 2005. The Tuckers sold shortly after that to Madison Partners Development.New applications stack upThe robust economy has caused new development applications to stack up at Basalt Town Hall, thicker than private jets on the tarmac of Pitkin County Airport.
Five projects are waiting for review in Basalt. They are headed by the Roaring Fork Club’s request to add 32 luxury cabins, 18 single family homes and 36 affordable housing units along with 28,500-square-feet of support services.The town planning commission recommended approval of the project last month. The Town Council review starts Oct. 24 for a project that cannot seem to shake controversy. Managing partner Jim Light needs the council to approve annexation of the property eyed for expansion into the town limits.Annexations into Basalt also are being sought by the Stotts Mill and Sopris Chase housing developments and, in part, for the Flying Fish/Pokorny application (see related chart for details). Stotts Mill has received approval by the town planning commission. Review is just starting on the other projects.The latest application to join the stack is Basalt Trade Associate’s Basalt Design District project. Developers Clay Crossland and Paul Adams are proposing the project on a nine-acre site behind the Basalt self-storage garage along the road to Basalt High School.The plan includes 40 residences plus 1.3 acres designated as “teacher housing.” Commercial development would include 81,000-square-feet of additional mini-storage; 70,000 square feet of industrial uses; and 20,000 square feet of office space.The Tavaci application is the center of attention in El Jebel. The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission recommended denial of the project. Review by the Eagle County commissioners starts later this month.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.