Performing arts center ready to become reality in Willits

A sign is erected along the Willits Lane at the future site of what it billed, "A 21st century performing arts center." Construction will commence this spring.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times


Three construction projects are preparing to break ground in Willits Town Center this spring. They are:

•The Contemporary, a 10,000-square-foot performing arts center being pursued by the nonprofit The Arts Campus at Willits.

•Aspen Skiing Co.’s workforce housing project. The 43 units will provide 150 bedrooms.

•East Valley, a mixed-use building with 7,000 square feet of commercial space on a ground floor and 32 free-market apartments on the upper floors.

The group behind a performing arts center in Willits has raised enough funds to pursue construction.

The Arts Campus at Willits has crossed the $3 million threshold, which is more than half of the estimated cost. TACAW, as the organization is known, has land-use approvals from the town of Basalt to build a 10,000-square-foot center called The Contemporary.

Ryan Honey, TACAW’s executive director, said the nonprofit organization will apply in March for a building permit with the goal of breaking ground this spring. The Contemporary will take about 12 months to complete, so opening will be in spring 2021.

“Everyone’s thrilled to finally be at the stage where we’re ready to be building the building,” Honey said.

Fundraising continues for the balance of the project’s cost.

“We have also come to terms with Alpine Bank for a construction loan backed by municipal bonds issued through the Colorado Education and Arts Facility Authority,” Honey wrote to the Basalt Town Council in a quarterly report in January. That bond backing will be formalized at a meeting in March, he said.

The Contemporary is being billed as a signature civic structure in Basalt. It will host everything from theater to music and will include a commercial-grade kitchen for cooking demonstrations and on-site catering. The center will feature a flexible performance space that will accommodate about 240 seated patrons or 395 standing.

The Contemporary will build off the success of The Temporary, a venue that TACAW operated in rented space at Willits until it lost the lease in 2019. TACAW was able to rent the vacant site of The Contemporary from the town of Basalt for 99 years. The site is along Willits Lane and will be adjacent to a new workforce housing project that Aspen Skiing Co. will construct.

Skico received land-use approvals for the 53,000-square-foot project in July. Its recent application for a building permit is under review by the Basalt planning department. Skico’s goal is to break ground this spring, weather permitting. It will take about one year to construct.

The building will have 43 units, with 18% voluntarily deed restricted for Basalt and midvalley child care professionals. There will be a total of 150 bedrooms.

The building will be one of the first of its size in Colorado to rely completely on electric power, according to Skico’s January Greenletter, a monthly newsletter on environmental issues for Skico employees. Once Holy Cross Energy achieves getting its power grid on 100% renewable sources, the apartment complex will be net-zero, Auden Schendler, Skico’s senior vice president of sustainability and community engagement, wrote in the newsletter.

“As you know, electrification is a key climate solution, because we heat most buildings by combusting fossil fuels,” the Greenletter said. “But electrification is only one cool feature of the building, which will be highly energy efficient — meaning well-insulated, sealed, with good windows, and not too many of them.”

A preliminary cost projection indicates the most efficient electric, mechanical and plumbing package will reduce the building’s annual electricity bill from $61,000 to $38,000 per year.

A third construction project is on track to crank up in Willits this spring. The planning department is reviewing the building-permit application for a structure with about 7,000 square feet of commercial space in the ground floor and 32 apartments on the upper floors.

The project is the second phase of work on a site being developed by Roaring Fork Valley businessmen Tim Belinski and Andrew Light. They are completing a seven-unit, luxury-housing complex called One Willits Place. Now they will break ground to the north of that luxury housing.

The second phase of the project will be called East Valley, according to Belinski. The commercial space will be condominiumized and sold, he said. The 32 apartments will be one- and two-bedroom, free-market units that will be rented. The site is across East Valley Road from Mezzaluna restaurant.

“The project will break ground this spring and the apartments will be ready for move-in this time next year,” Belinski said in an email. “The commercial will be up and running in the spring of 2021.”

The Vail-based Steadman Clinic has not yet applied for a building permit to construct a planned facility on land it purchased in Willits along Willits Lane.


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