Willits developer loses control of Chicago job | AspenTimes.com

Willits developer loses control of Chicago job

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – The developer of the stalled Willits Town Center project was stripped of control of a five-story mall in downtown Chicago late last month after running into financial difficulties.Joseph Freed & Associates was on the home stretch of the 285,000-square-foot Block 37 project when lending giant Bank of America filed a foreclosure lawsuit this fall, according to a Dec. 1 article in The New York Times. The bank claimed Freed doesn’t have the funds to complete the mall.Bank of America won a court decision last week to appoint a receiver to take the reins of the project. Freed plans an appeal, according to published reports.A spokeswoman for the Chicago-based development firm said Freed still plans to proceed with the Willits Town Center project, a mix of restaurants, shops and residences in west Basalt.”We are encouraged by our ongoing negotiations with Whole Foods Market,” said Freed spokeswoman Jayne Thompson. “If these discussions move forward as anticipated, we could still be in a position to start construction in the spring.”Work stalled on the Whole Foods building on Labor Day weekend 2008. Only the foundation and underground parking garage was poured. The project remains mothballed.Freed was supposed to complete the shell of a 44,000-square-foot supermarket by June 1, 2009. The natural grocer planned to finish the space and open by late this year or early 2010.Representatives of the grocer and the developer have indicated they are working on a new deal for a smaller space. The store has been highly anticipated in Basalt.It’s uncertain what implications, if any, Freed’s financial troubles at the Chicago project have for Willits Town Center. Thompson said the firm is prepared to respond to the realities of the economy. That might require working with tenants and lenders to rework plans so projects can be successfully completed.”We remain committed to all the projects in our portfolio such as Willits and Block 37, and look forward to moving each [project] in a manner best suited to the ultimate success of the project,” the company said in a prepared statement.Meanwhile, the Freed firm is trying to make the best of times at Willits Town Center. The Willits Winter Market launched last Saturday and drew several vendors and lots of foot traffic. The market will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday through Feb. 27 at a vacant, indoor commercial space next to the Kitchen Collage.scondon@aspentimes.com

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