Whole Foods isn’t a done deal | AspenTimes.com

Whole Foods isn’t a done deal

The word this week that Whole Foods Market renegotiated a lease to potentially open a store in Basalt’s Willits Town Center was good news indeed.

The Roaring Fork Valley has obviously got someone at Whole Foods in its corner. The world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods easily could have walked away from Basalt once the Willits developer couldn’t deliver on the initial deal. Instead, Whole Foods displayed faith in the valley’s recovery at a time when economic news is otherwise lackluster at best and grim at worst.

Shrinking the size of the proposed grocery store by 43 percent, from 44,000 square feet in the previous lease to 25,000 square feet now, is certainly understandable in this economy.

So kudos for Whole Foods. Now, the hard work begins. The construction of the grocery store in Basalt is far from a done deal. Joseph Freed and Associates LLC, the owner and developer of the project, must obtain financing to resume and complete construction – no easy task in this economy. Construction stalled in September 2008 after the foundation was poured and some infrastructure completed.

The developer can help its cause by keeping its land-use application simple for whatever alterations it needs to the building. We want to see a reasonable request that will increase the likelihood of the store getting built as soon as possible. We hope the firm doesn’t use the community’s desire for Whole Foods as leverage for an unreasonable request.

It’s happened before. The developers’ quest to add free-market housing delayed approval for the project during a political battle in 2007. That delay appears to have proved costly – the economy collapsed and financing dried up before Whole Foods could be completed.

The town government can help by processing the Whole Foods’ application in a timely manner, once submitted. Land-use applications sometimes have a way of disappearing into a bureaucratic black hole in Basalt.

All sides need to keep the momentum going.

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