Revised Marketplace plan off to a better start
Some in Carbondale are calling it a “miracle” that the town government, some residents and the owners of the hotly debated Marketplace property seem to have agreed on the basics of a new development plan for the site. It may be a little early to declare a miracle, but there’s still much to recognize and applaud.On Tuesday the general public got its first glimpse of a conceptual plan for the 23-acre Crystal River Marketplace. Representatives from the town, the developers, the town’s Economic Roadmap Group and other members of the community created the plan. Expectations are that a more refined, detailed version will soon be submitted to the town, at which point a formal government review process will begin.Last time the town received a development proposal for this parcel, it included plans for a “big-box” store. The town trustees signed off on the project, but many Carbondale residents opposed the idea of a megastore in their town. Led by a grassroots group called the Town Mothers, citizens put the trustees’ approval to a public referendum and defeated it in July 2003, killing the big-box.We believe the vote was a victory for Carbondale, but the entire debate was a political bloodbath that nobody cares to relive.So we commend all those who participated in the latest Marketplace design exercise, which has the potential not only to result in a better project but also to avoid more legal and political carnage.The signs are positive. The new proposal includes changes to the frontage areas along Main Street and Highway 133. The design plans fit within the zoning and land-use recommendations crafted over the last two years by the Economic Roadmap Group. And this first presentation came off in a spirit of cooperation that contrasts sharply with the acrimony that dominated the debate in 2003. Truth be told, current Marketplace landowner Brian Huster might even have won the 2003 election – and had his big-box site built upon or sold off by now – if he’d been a little more approachable, more willing to hear residents’ suggestions and critiques.The new plans call for up to 175,000 square feet of retail space and up to 175 housing units – a big project that will irreversibly change Carbondale. But this time the developer’s approach – characterized primarily by Rich Schierburg of the Denver-based Peregrine Group, which has an option to buy the Marketplace parcel – has been open and approachable, rather than arrogant and aloof.This Marketplace sequel is by no means finished. But at this point it has the potential to be much more successful than the original. Fewer fireworks, perhaps, but with the promise of a happy ending.
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