Whole Foods delayed; developer seeks credit
September 3, 2008
BASALT ” Work stopped on the Whole Foods Market building in Basalt on Tuesday while the developer works on acquiring the financing necessary to meet a town government condition, officials said.
Joseph Freed and Associates, owner and developer of the Willits Town Center, is in the process of obtaining a building permit from the town government. Work started on the building in June via a foundation permit.
To obtain the building permit, the developer must prove to town officials that it has the financing to complete public infrastructure associated with the project. That includes a roundabout on Willits Lane, additional streets in the village core, and improvements on Highway 82, said Tim Belinski, vice president of development for Joseph Freed and Associates.
Basalt Town Manager Bill Efting said it is standard procedure to require a letter of credit before issuing a building permit for major projects. The Whole Foods Market building isn’t being treated differently from any other project, he said. Efting stressed that the town isn’t requiring any additional design review of the project.
Belinski said Joseph Freed and Associates is in the process of totaling up the cost of the work tied to public infrastructure. Once that is complete, it will approach its bank for financing and obtain a letter of credit to present to the town.
Belinski said the banking industry’s standards have changed significantly in the last year because of the nationwide credit crunch. Banks are more careful with their loans in these tough economic times. However, he didn’t anticipate a problem lining up the financing and completing the project.
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Joseph Freed and Associates is a real estate development and leasing firm based in Chicago that undertakes projects across the country. It bought a majority interest in the Willits Town Center from Michael Lipkin two years ago this month.
Whole Foods Market will anchor the Willits Town Center. The building will feature the 44,000-square-foot supermarket on the ground floor and affordable housing on the upper two floors. After it is built out, the village center will have 500,000 square feet of commercial and residential space, making it one of the largest projects in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The developer’s contract with the grocer calls for the building shell to be completed by June 1, 2009. A crew from the grocery chain will then finish the market and it will open in late 2009 or early 2010.
Belinski said that timetable remains in place. “We’re OK on calendar items at this point,” he said.
The length of the construction delay is uncertain. The general contractor on the project, Clayco, informed subcontractors Friday that work would be delayed starting Tuesday. The work site, where the boom of a large crane looms over the concrete supports and basement walls, was abandoned Tuesday.
Belinski acknowledged it would have been best to advance from the foundation permit work to the building permit work without a delay. It was uncertain why Joseph Freed and Associates wasn’t in position to allow that seamless transition.
“Every construction project has its issues to be resolved,” Belinski said.
He said he is hopeful that issues will be resolved by the end of next week. “We want to get going as quickly as we can,” he said.
Whole Foods Market officials recently reaffirmed their commitment to the Basalt project. The company said in its latest report to investors that it was paring down expansion plans ” dropping plans for some new stores in 2009 and downsizing others. However, a company official said the Basalt project was advancing as planned.