Rocky Mountain Institute supports Basalt bonds, lobbies for hotel
Rocky Mountain Institute is going to bat for the town of Basalt in the “Fix the Fork” campaign for $5 million in bonds for the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park project.
Michael Kinsley, a senior consultant for the institute and former Pitkin County commissioner, urged about 18 residents attending a public meeting Thursday night to get actively involved in the campaign to approve the $5 million in bonds. Basalt voters will decide Nov. 5 whether to approve the bonds.
The bond issuance is an important part of Basalt’s plan to relocate residents of the mobile-home park, perform work on the Roaring Fork River to ease flooding threats, construct a park and prepare part of the site for possible redevelopment.
Kinsley said governments on all levels are often urged to operate like a business. “This bond issue is running the town like a business,” he said.
Kinsley also stressed that Rocky Mountain Institute officials feel there is a strong need for a top-notch hotel in Basalt as well. The Institute has a contract to purchase land from Basalt that is immediately to the west of the Pan and Fork site. It is working on plans for a 14,000- to 15,000-square-foot building and plans to submit an application to the town this fall, according to Kinsley.
The nonprofit organization, which promotes energy efficiency in all aspects of life, will hold conferences that will attract leading thinkers much like the Aspen Institute does, Kinsley said. The institute would have to house them in Snowmass Village, under current conditions, Kinsley said. That would mean lost opportunities for restaurants, shops and service providers in Basalt.
“We want them to be here. We want them to buy their stuff in Basalt,” Kinsley said, stressing he meant no ill will to Snowmass Village.
“Let me be really clear, RMI needs that hotel here,” Kinsley later added.
A hotel was once a key part of the Pan and Fork plan, but now its status is unclear. The town teamed with the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. in 2011 to buy the Pan and Fork. The initial plan was for the town to convert its portion of the property into a riverfront park and for the nonprofit to sell the portion closest to Two Rivers Road to a developer. An application was submitted that included a hotel. Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. said it intended to build a campus for nonprofit organizations. Colorado Mountain College was also mentioned as a possible tenant.
The hotel is no longer being touted as part of the redevelopment plan for the Pan and Fork by the town or supporters of the bond issuance. Town Manager Mike Scanlon previously said a new hotel might be more appropriate elsewhere in downtown, potentially as part of a future redevelopment of the Clark’s Market site or the Phillips 66 gas station.
Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said it’s possible the entire Pan and Fork site could be converted into a riverfront park. Basalt and “partners” could acquire the remaining part of the Pan and Fork site from Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. “If the community wants it to happen, it will happen,” she said.
Whitsitt acknowledged that a portion of the site was viewed as a potential site for commercial redevelopment. “The momentum was something else for a really long time,” she said.
Basalt and Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. officials now say there will be community meetings held after the election to determine what “redevelopment” of the Pan and Fork means.
The chief operating officer of RH recently said the retailer’s presence will invigorate downtown Aspen by day and wake it up at night, but they’ll need some help from the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission.
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