Darwinism on the Snowmass mall | AspenTimes.com

Darwinism on the Snowmass mall

Chad Abraham
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Darwin soon may be playing a larger role in the Snowmass Village mall.Rob Robinson, who owned the Stew Pot for 30 years and now is managing it again for the new owner, said the mall area is in decent shape. But with Base Village construction to begin soon, he predicted the retail scene will turn cutthroat.”It will be survival of the fittest around here for a while,” Robinson said.He compared all the potential development and revitalization in Snowmass Village to Denver International Airport.”They built it 20 years before it reached its full potential. And that’s kind of what they’re thinking now [in Snowmass Village],” he said. “This whole theory of ‘Build it and they will come’ is a little far-fetched at this point in time. They don’t have an airport that can accommodate the number of people they’re talking about needing to have to make a sustainable new village.”The massive Base Village development has made the mall’s fate a focal point. The retail area has been the subject of about 20 meetings involving multiple homeowners’ associations, the town’s marketing board and retailers in the past two months.Sheri Sanzone is principal of the design studio Bluegreen, which is managing the revitalization project. She said a meeting is scheduled early next month to update the Town Council on the proposals and input from the meetings. The plans would then go to the town’s planning commission.”It’s been a focus of the town to really take advantage of the existing mall and make improvements to it,” Sanzone said.The mall could have new amenities and infrastructure such as an ice rink, a new transit center, improved parking and pedestrian areas, and a new tax district. The latter would fund the revitalization and make it easier for new commercial ventures.Another goal is “making sure we get sunlight into the mall. Today, it’s pretty limited,” Sanzone said.The mall would be one of three commercial centers, with Base Village and the Snowmass Center being the others. Construction on the revitalization could begin at the end of 2007, and work on the project would last through 2015.

Jim Light of Chaffin/Light Associates, which owns a building on the mall, said the town’s strategy has been to redevelop the mall so it can compete with Base Village. He has been intimately involved in the mall plans.A key goal is to devote a roughly equal number of square feet in the mall and Base Village to retail and entertainment, and then connect the areas with the planned gondola.

Town officials are participating in the revitalization project, instead of letting the new owners of the mall, Meridian Pacific, do all the legwork, Light said.”They’re taking a very strong leadership position by saying, ‘Here’s what we’d like to see.’ It’s very proactive and very positive,” he said.Bruce Bauman, who has owned the Snowbeach Cafe on the mall for 30 years, said he liked the layout of the mall in the 1970s.”But everybody says it needs refurbishing,” he said. “It could always use a little spruce up. Now with Base Village coming in, you gotta keep up with the Joneses.”Asked whether he favored activities such as an ice rink, he said the mall “used to have all that. We had a fire pit in the winter that turned into a water fountain in the summer.”The spot where buses and shuttles pull up just below the mall was formerly an ice rink. The mall area also had a large swimming pool.

Bauman is in the process of selling his cafe, but not because of a lack of diners. He said 30 years was enough in the restaurant business. Like Robinson, he said business is doing well on the mall.”I had my three best years the last three years in a row,” Bauman said. He acknowledged that “summers are never fantastic.”For Robinson, who said he supports “anything that adds amenities” to the mall, there are certain days when his restaurant is maxed out.”But most the year, [we’re] not. Most of the year you’re not operating at full capacity,” he said. “So when you double and triple the amount of square footage [of businesses], I think you literally have to double the number of people coming to Snowmass and staying in Snowmass and dining in Snowmass to be able to make it work for everybody. Some people will survive it, and some people won’t.”That’s America.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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