Snowmass Center project complicated by phasing, supply chain and legal logistics

No official groundbreaking date at this time, officials say

Snowmass Town Center on a brisk morning in Snowmass Village on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun)

It’s been just shy of a year since Snowmass Village Town Council reviewed and approved the final redevelopment plans for the Snowmass Center in late fall 2020 and just shy of two years since the project was first brought before council for review in 2019.

But the building still looks the same as it did last year and the year before. How come?

“It’s super complicated,” said Jordan Sarick, the president of development group Eastwood Snowmass Investors. And it’s complicated in three different realms: project phasing, municipal approvals and supply chain challenges.

Phasing for this particular project is impacted by just how, well, central the Snowmass Center is to town operations. It houses the only post office and the only full-service year-round grocery store within town limits (that would be Clark’s Market).

One of Eastwood’s priorities has been ensuring that Clark’s and “other key commercial tenants” can remain open in some capacity once the project does break ground, but it’s a task easier said than done.

“That’s a fairly difficult process, as you might imagine,” Sarick said in a joint interview with Kathleen Wanatowicz, who has been overseeing public communications for the project. “And while we’re confident that we’re finding solutions and making it work, we’re obviously doing quite a bit of work on doing all of that.”

It’s one of many factors that will impact the phasing of the project: stakeholders include tenants, contractors, consultants and other professionals who have to weigh in, too.

Figuring out project phasing is a bit like playing the traffic jam puzzle game Rush Hour or “trying to arranging all the pickles in a pickle jar,” Sarick said: in order to move one piece, all the others also have to move, too, so there isn’t exactly a single next step developers need to take so much as a number of different components that need to be accomplished.

“If you want to reorder every single one of them, it makes sense to study the pickles first for a little while,” Sarick said. That’s part of what Eastwood Snowmass has spent the past year doing: studying the pickles.

There also are a few more municipal matters to take care of with the town.

Council’s approval of the final redevelopment plans in an ordinance last year came with some conditions, including improvements to some retaining walls, modifications to the width of a Main Street corridor and public parking provisions, according to Dave Shinneman, the town’s community development director. Both parties have made some progress on that front over the past few months, Shinneman said.

The approval of the ordinance wasn’t a no-holds-barred thumbs-up for construction to begin. That ordinance was focused on land use decisions; developers still have to record some detailed Planned Unit Development documents that offer a mapped-out site plan and more specifics on components like building heights, floor areas, lots roads and easements, according to Wanatowicz and Shinneman. Development agreements as well as a final plat identifying new parcels, roads and easements also will come down the road, Wanatowicz wrote in a followup email.

The project also involves a trail on Alpine Bank property that will require some easements and dedications noted on a plat map, Shinneman said. The Community Development Department is waiting on the plat now; after that, developers will need to submit building permits and work through any technical issues with a civil engineer, he said.

About that supply chain component to the project: as with just about every industry out there right now, it’s jammed up in the world of construction, and that comes with thorns of its own.

“Trying to start a project right now is very different than trying to conclude a project, so I would suggest that even were it not for trying to iron out all the other details, both logistical and legal, we might still be trying to figure out how to steer through that thicket of supply chain logistical disruptions,” Sarick said.

With lots of boxes still left to tick, Sarick didn’t yet have a firm date when the project might break ground. The phasing plan and sequencing project hasn’t yet been finalized, and though planners have done a “huge, substantial amount of work” on the project over the past year, there also have been hitches along the way.

“I don’t want to minimize that enormity of work, which is a highly iterative process as well,” Sarick said. “You go eight-tenths of the way down the road only to find that there’s a problem, you’ve got to back track and go again, so without minimizing that amount of work, we’re still pressing forward as fast as we reasonably can. As to when the shovel gets put in the ground, I just don’t know.”

The ordinance council approved last year included 10 years of vested property rights, giving Eastwood Snowmass a decade to work within the approved regulations and provisions for the project. That makes 2030 a deadline, not a start date, but it does give Eastwood Snowmass the chance to bring things up to speed without putting the pedal to the metal, according to Wanatowicz.

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to start production 10 years from now, but it means that we have a little bit of time to get this right,” Wanatowicz said. “Let’s see what the market does with the supply chain issues but also, you know, have a little bit of room to get all of the final pieces in place before (construction starts).”