Whole Foods, Starbucks buildings sell at Willits for $30.455 million | AspenTimes.com

Whole Foods, Starbucks buildings sell at Willits for $30.455 million

The building anchored by Whole Foods Market at Willits Town Center as well as the adjacent Starbucks building sold for $30.455 million this week.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

The owner of the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, Denver Nuggets basketball team and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams now owns a piece of Basalt.

A company owned by Stanley Kroenke and his firm, The Kroenke Group, purchased the buildings anchored by Whole Foods Market and Starbucks at Willits Town Center in Basalt.

TKG Willits Town Center LLC of Columbia, Missouri, purchased the buildings for $30.46 million Wednesday from Willits Town Center LLC, according to a warranty deed filed with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

TKG Willits Town Center used the property as collateral to secure a loan for $25.12 million from First Bank of Missouri, according to other documents filed with the Clerk’s Office.

TKG Willits Town Center and affiliates TKG Real Estate Services and TKG Management have their offices at The Kroenke Group’s headquarters at Columbia.

Representatives of Denver firm Quadrant Properties met with town of Basalt officials last week to vet the approvals and regulations for the Willits Town Center buildings, according to Town Planner Susan Philp. Quadrant Properties’ website says it is “a preferred development partner of The Kroenke Group, a privately held company that owns and manages over 55 million square feet of commercial real estate.”

A partner in Quadrant Properties didn’t return repeated telephone messages Thursday from The Aspen Times.

A profile of Kroenke by Forbes.com ranks him as the 148th richest person in the world with a net worth of $7.9 billion as of Thursday. It said his real estate empire spans more than 30 million square feet, with much of it in shopping plazas near Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. Kroenke’s wife, Ann, is an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune, according to Forbes.

Kroenke is one of the least popular men in his native Missouri right now because he moved the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles this year.

What’s next for mariner?

Willits Town Center, the seller of the two buildings, is a company owned by Mariner Real Estate Management, a Kansas City firm. Mariner still owns, in whole or partially, the three Willits buildings that are home to Smoke and El Korita, Kitchen College and the Valley View medical offices. It also is a partner in the Element Hotel and is constructing what will be the largest building in the commercial and residential complex.

Ryan Anderson, co-president of Mariner, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday by The Aspen Times. It is unclear if Mariner intends to hold onto the remaining portions of Willits Town Center and complete development or sell. A significant portion of the project remains undeveloped.

Willits Town Center was approved for about 500,000 square feet of commercial space and free-market residential in 2001. The Basalt Town Council majority approved an additional 91,000 square feet of mixed uses earlier this year.

The council narrowly defeated a request by Mariner to share sales tax revenue in 2016 once the revenue exceeded the 2015 baseline level. The council voted 4-3 to reject the request, with Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and Councilmen Rob Leavitt, Gary Tennenbaum and Mark Kittle opposed. Councilmen Rick Stevens, Herschel Ross and Bernie Grauer voted to share sales tax revenue to help prime the pump. The investment was sound, they said, because it would spur development and generate more sales taxes. The opponents said it was a bad idea to use public funds for a private development.

Anderson said in December that Mariner had a projected $12 million gap between development costs for the remainder of the project and what it could recoup in rents. Sharing sales tax revenue would be used to close that gap, he said.

Investment pays off

Mariner’s investment of the distressed Willits Town Center property in 2011 in a foreclosure sale is paying off.

“With mechanics’ liens and everything, we ended up paying about $20 million,” Anderson said in December.

Mariner revived the stalled construction of the Whole Foods building. It’s now the vibrant core of the complex. In addition to the grocery store, the building houses Bristlecone Mountain Sports and Basalt Bike and Ski. The building is fully occupied except for a small space between the sporting-goods stores. Four Dogs Fine Wine and Spirits is located in the same building but owns its space. Its space wasn’t part of the sale.

After the Whole Foods building was completed, Mariner finished what became known as the Starbucks’ building. It also is fully occupied.

The deal is expected to have little effect on tenants because they have long-term leases.

Anderson said in December that his firm had invested about $75 million in Willits Town Center through the purchase and development.

“It’s been an OK deal,” he said at the time. “I think we’ve spent a lot more money than we thought we would have to spend, let’s put it that way. Our financing has always been tough.”

Mariner got a nearly $30.5 million infusion. TKG gets two successful buildings anchored by a grocery pulling in shoppers from throughout the valley. No sales data are available for Whole Foods; however, sales tax data show that Whole Foods and City Market, in a different development, combined for about $70 million in sales last year.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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