Whole Foods building ready for interior finish | AspenTimes.com

Whole Foods building ready for interior finish

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
Scott Condon The Aspen Times

BASALT – The real estate investment firm that pulled Willits Town Center in Basalt out of foreclosure last year is nearing completion of the building that will house Whole Foods Market.Ryan Anderson, co-president of Kansas-based Mariner Real Estate Management, said his company is pleased with the progress made since the acquisition of Willits Town Center was completed one year ago this month.”Obviously the warm weather has helped a lot,” he said.The Whole Foods Market building is “substantially complete,” according to Tim Belinski, president of Independence Ventures, a property-management and development firm that is handling the planning and build-out of Willits for Mariner.Crews have completed the foundation, infrastructure, steel frame and exterior walls of the Whole Foods building. Whole Foods’ own team will finish the interior of the 26,000-square-foot grocery store. A 6,000-square-foot mezzanine will feature offices for store employees, an employee break room and mechanical rooms. The public area of the store will be on the 20,000-square-foot ground floor.The building also includes a 4,500-square-foot space that is “presumably for a liquor store” to the east of Whole Foods and 15,000 square feet of commercial space to the west of the grocer, Belinski said.A 200-space parking lot has been completed outside the store. Crews are installing landscaping, planters, seating areas and a pocket park – touches designed to make the area more inviting.A representative for Whole Foods Market said Monday that the natural grocer chain expects a mid-August opening in Basalt.Anderson said Whole Foods Market wants to keep open the possibility of expanding the store to the adjoining commercial area to the west in five years, if demand warrants it.”We’re confident that’s going to be a real active store,” Belinski said. Announcements are expected in the next few weeks on other tenants. Mariner is promoting the retail space with SullivanHayes Brokerage, a company based in Denver.Willits Town Center’s success hinges in large part on Whole Foods being a successful anchor tenant. The grocery store is expected to pull customers from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, and possibly other areas in the Interstate 70 corridor. The site is about 20 miles from Aspen.Willits Town Center is approved for more than 500,000 square feet of space for retail shops, restaurants, offices and residences. Only a fraction of it was built before the recession doomed the prior owner and developer, Joseph Freed & Associates. The firm lost the project to its lender, and Mariner bought it out of foreclosure.Anderson said Mariner wants to begin construction this summer of one of five other buildings ready to roll.”Our goal is to keep the construction team here,” he said.The trigger will be landing key tenants for the other buildings. A hotel is also planned.There were as many as 100 workers on the site at peak time last winter. Nearly all of the workers were employed by local subcontractors, Belinski said. Contractor J.E. Dunn is a national company with offices in Colorado. Virtually all of the subcontractors were from the Roaring Fork Valley and elsewhere in western Colorado, according to Belinski.Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt toured the site Monday with Belinski and Anderson. She said it is encouraging to see the progress on the building after there were so many delays tied to the recession.”It’s been a long, long wait for the fat lady to sing,” Whitsitt said.scondon@aspentimes.com

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