Willits center sold to Kansas firm
BASALT – The stalled Willits Town Center project in Basalt – where a Whole Foods Market was once prepared to locate – was sold Thursday for $9 million, according to a deed filed with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s office.The property was purchased by Willits Town Center LLC, a company connected to Mariner Wealth Advisors of Leawood, Kan. Mariner officials have not responded to numerous requests from The Aspen Times in recent weeks to discuss their interest in buying the midvalley development property. Mariner representatives visited Basalt at different times this spring to check the property and study the land use approvals granted by the town government.The seller was listed as Special Services Asset Management Co., which was appointed as receiver for Willits Town Center after a foreclosure last year. It was unclear from a special warranty deed filed at 4:51 p.m. Thursday whether the transaction involved the entire Willits Town Center property.Mariner’s website said the company seeks opportunities to invest in real estate, distressed real estate and real estate focused companies throughout the United States.The prior owner and developer of Willits Town Center, Joseph Freed & Associates (JFA) lost control of a major portion of the project in a foreclosure in 2010 by its lender, Bank of America. The remainder of the property, including the foundation of the building where Whole Foods was prepared to go, was tied up in a lawsuit over contractors’ liens.JFA ran out of construction funding in September 2008 after completing only the foundation of the building pegged for Whole Foods Market. Construction has remained on hold ever since.Whole Foods lost patience over the ownership uncertainty in March and terminated its lease for a 25,000-square-foot supermarket at Willits. Will Paradise, regional president of Whole Foods’ Rocky Mountain Region, said at the time that the grocer would reconsider signing a new lease at Willits Town Center once the ownership issues were cleared up – as long as the lease terms remained favorable. He said the company still sees the Roaring Fork Valley as a good fit.Mariner intends to court the grocer, according to sources who are familiar with the sale but weren’t authorized to discuss it firstname.lastname@example.org
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