Loss of retail space in Base Village a concern for town of Snowmass
The Aspen Times
Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a multi-part series about the town of Snowmass Village’s review of proposed amendments to the stalled Base Village project.
Town staff members have a lot to say, good and bad, about Related’s application to amend the approved plans for Base Village.
On Thursday, the Community Development Department released a packet of comments from various town divisions, outlining what they think about the new application. Their memo to the council is clear that they want to see the project move forward, but that stance is predicated on the developer adequately addressing certain concerns in the first phase of the project’s review, which starts Monday.
At the top of that list is determining whether a smaller pool facility and a permanent home for the Ice Age Discovery Center are adequate replacements for a larger aquatic center promised as a community purpose in the current approvals — explored in more depth in Friday’s Aspen Times.
A second but related topic is the loss of retail space in the new plans. The total amount of commercial space in the new proposal is 57,626 square feet, a negative difference of more than 7,000 square feet from the amount agreed necessary to encourage vibrancy in Base Village, the memo said.
Much of that loss is in Lots 2 and 3 in the core of Base Village. Dwayne Romero, president of Related Colorado, acknowledged that removal last fall when the company first submitted its new plans for the project. However, some of that is compensated for by an addition of retail space in Buildings 10A and 10B on the east side of the ski-back trail in the middle of the project, he said.
In an analysis it conducted for the town, consulting firm Economic & Planning Systems estimated that on completion, Base Village can support more than double the additional retail space that Related is proposing. That’s based on how much additional money the consultants think future Base Village visitors will spend in the town, excluding lodging and ski expenses — ranging from $9.4 million to $11.5 million.
Additional retail also will encourage guests to stay in Snowmass to shop and dine, something Economic & Planning Systems believes can happen if Base Village becomes its own destination.
“If (visitors) don’t have a good variety to shop and for food and restaurants, they’re only going to come once,” said Julie Ann Woods, community development director for Snowmass Village. “I want us to make this very special and very different.”
Where’s Main Street?
Woods said her department is pleased with the proposed addition of retail in Buildings 10A and 10B as it will face a primary pedestrian walkway running across the development. But there is a gap in storefronts on that walkway from approximately the ski-back trail to the arrival center, fragmenting the “village street” feel Woods thinks will encourage visitors to keep moving from one end of Base Village to another.
“To have vibrancy, we have to have variety and proximity and density of retail,” she said. “It’s always got to be kind of in eyeshot of visitors to be successful.”
Economic & Planning Systems backs up that argument in its findings.
“It appears that the successful retail locations will be those that are clustered along the primary corridor of the village,” the consultants, Andrew Knudtsen and Tim Morzel, of Denver, said in their report. “Retailers report that small physical impediments can stop the flow of pedestrian traffic and leave certain portions of a base village isolated.”
The discovery center could provide some vitality, too, Woods said. However, she’s concerned that it’s taking the place of prime food and beverage space, which she already sees as limited.
The other amenity Related is billing as a community purpose is a pool facility next to the Limelight Snowmass hotel on Lot 2 that will be free to Base Village owners and guests. While the proposed new location probably makes more sense than the one that is currently approved and provides an amenity for the hotel, Woods questioned whether it is the “highest and best use of that space,” which is in the heart of Base Village.
Not only could that central location possibly serve a better purpose, but the layout of that lot, with the backside of a pool house facing existing bars and restaurants, again hurts pedestrian flow, she said.
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