Long-awaited commercial work finally eyed at Willits | AspenTimes.com

Long-awaited commercial work finally eyed at Willits

The owners of Willits hope to overcome years of delays and a sputtering national economy to finally start developing the commercial core of their midvalley project.

The owners hope to break ground this month on a 17,000-square-foot commercial building, according to managing partner Michael Lipkin. Alpine Bank would buy ground-floor space and be the anchor tenant of that building, Lipkin said.

He and his partners hope to break ground at or near the same time on a 7,000-square-foot gas station and general store.

Both buildings are already approved by the Basalt Town Council. The town of Basalt’s building inspector is reviewing final plans. Lipkin expects groundbreaking to begin in about two weeks.

Willits is located just upvalley from the El Jebel City Market. Both commercial buildings would be located near the intersection of Highway 82 and Willits Lane, on the southern side of the highway.

Lipkin said he is also negotiating a letter of intent for a hotel. If successful, the prospective developer and operator would initially build an 80-room structure and have the right to expand it to 120 rooms. It would include a restaurant, ballroom and conference meeting space.

@ATD Sub heds:A pulse in Basalt

@ATD body copy: Lipkin and his partners, Clay Crossland and Paul Adams, have approvals for about 202,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 70,000 square feet of office space in the part of their project known as the Willits Town Center. The approvals allow some flexibility in shuffling numbers.

If construction starts this month as planned, it will come nearly 13 years after Lipkin first proposed the project to the Eagle County government and nearly 18 months after final review was granted by the town of Basalt.

The developers haven’t done any commercial development but they have undertaken probably the most elaborate earth moving ever seen in the valley as part of the site preparation. The developers have concentrated thus far on building scores of single-family homes and townhouses in the project.

Once work begins at the Willits Town Center, Basalt will solidify its position as the hotbed of commercial activity. While the sagging economy has brought commercial development to a standstill in much of the valley, three projects are under way in Basalt.

Robert Ritchie is putting final touches on his 40,000-square-foot Riverside Plaza project at the intersection of Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road.

The Riverwalk project will add 14,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space along with 10,500 square feet of office space on Midland Avenue across from St. Vincent Catholic Church. Riverwalk is being developed by Frieda Wallison and Caddis Fly Partners LLC.

@ATD Sub heds:Transition at Willits

@ATD body copy: Lipkin said the two commercial buildings at Willits will provide a transition from the auto-oriented highway corridor to a pedestrian-friendly commercial core.

The Alpine Bank building will be brick with pitched roofs. About 8,000 square feet of office space will be leased on the second floor.

The gas station and general store will feature a similar exterior design. A porch will wrap around the building, and it will feature a metal roof. The canopy over the gas pumps will also have metal roofs so its appearance will be more upscale than the typical gas station, according to Lipkin.

His architecture firm, Lipkin-Warner Design and Planning, will design the buildings.

The general store will be paired with a restaurant. It will be either a diner or upscale sandwich and deli shop, Lipkin said.

The second story of the general store will house two two-bedroom apartments and one one-bedroom unit. They are part of the project’s required affordable housing component.

The two commercial buildings should be completed by early summer, Lipkin said.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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